If you’re reading this, you probably know that Ozy has hosted an Intellectual Turing Test on their blog. I participated as a pro-SJ, and wrote SJ #9 and ASJ #6. The test has now ended and I scored fairly highly! 🙂
I entered the ITT as a sort of test for myself- how well did I understand SJ? How well did I understand ASJ? I tend to enjoy this sort of faking/lying/manipulating type of thing, and was eager to craft my responses to deceive while remaining mostly honest to the letter.
In this post, I’ll look at which of the positions I endorse and how they fit together in general. I’ll also try to address interesting objections or comments along the way.
However, and this is an important thing to note, I didn’t include intersex issues in my SJ post. This is unfortunate, and I think that sex binaries, access to medical records, and less stigma on intersex people are really important issues.
I think that I should do something to mitigate this failure, but I am not really sure what it would be since the time appears to have passed for such actions.
1. What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?
I am extremely accepting to other viewpoints. I try to ignore my own emotional responses for the comfort of the other person and for the sake of open, but I accept that I often fail. I respond respectfully, though perhaps condescendingly; the condescension is not on purpose. If I am upset, I will tend to simply not respond to the other person’s arguments or statements.
This is because I have had painful experiences with angry people and find that such discourse styles limit free thought and don’t allow for changing one’s mind.
I believe that everyone should attempt to obey this discourse norm so that others feel safe, though if they cannot I am willing to forgive them. I want to be able to change my mind or not change my mind without emotional pressure or social stakes, so I consequently would appreciate if others were unaggressive and polite. I accept that some people might have emotional responses due to personal connections of lived experiences, but that is no excuse for treating others disrespectfully, although ignoring or shunning others is of course acceptable on an individual level.
Completely true and absolutely sincere. I anterrified of angry people, even – maybe even especially! – when they are on my side. On the other hand, I know that sometimes people are read as angry even when they aren’t due to race or other factors, and that’s not fair. I also want to optimize for correct opinions, and accepting and listening to people expressing anger even when I am afraid is a part of that.
My blog policy reflects this balance between me being scared of anger, and me realizing that anger and coarseness can sometimes be valuable contributions. (Soon, quite soon, probably next week, I will write something about freedom of speech and emotion.)
As I state, I am occasionally condescending on accident. I don’t mean to be, so apologies in advance (or in hindsight).
I will tend to respect other people’s viewpoints, but only if they seem reasonable as well. I don’t talk to people who seem like idiots or who seem to treat others poorly.
I’ve had a lot of bad experiences with so-called “SJWs”. I disagreed on really minor points – like regarding whether it was a good idea to not read straight white cis men’s books -, and often these disagreements would spark all-caps text accusing me of shedding man-tears, which is pretty rich since at that time I wasn’t identifying as a man (and even now I don’t fully identify as a man). People were immensely rude to me.
I’m not rude to others, and I would prefer that others do the same for me. My viewpoints shouldn’t be dismissed just because I don’t have maximum Oppression Points or whatever; they should be evaluated based on their own merit.
Fully endorsed and almost completely sincere and true, as most commentors speculated.
In fact, however, I eagerly book with idiots and occasionally try to talk to people who treat others poorly. Epistemic virtue is important to me, as is honing my ability to convince others on their own terms.
But I do avoid people I don’t like, people who don’t argue in good faith, or people who just don’t make any sense whatsoever to me, so this is true in a looser sort of way.
Someone brought up an interesting point- the man tears bit and how my response was basically “lol I’m not really a man haha”, instead of the more typical “accusations of hysteria have been used against women throughout history”.
This is a good point, but my point here was linked to my later answer in part 2 about assuming that identity groups are monoliths, addressed more comprehensively and lucidly here. I actually share the same issue with “lol man tears” feminism, and after this aspect was pointed out, I wished I could have added that. I’ve covered this issue more extensively here.
There’s not much to corroborate here. Both are almost entirely true, with a few exaggerations or vague word choices. They are consistent with each other.
2. What is the true reason, deep down, that you believe what you believe? What piece of evidence, test, or line of reasoning would convince you that you’re wrong about your ideology?
Some commentors noted that my ASJ entry sounded far more emotionally honest than my SJ entry.
I’m emotionally aligned with ASJ, but I agree with SJ on most object issues and in my general worldview. The SJ-ish jargon and rhetoric I use was heavily influenced by what I read when I was coming of age politically. So good on those who noticed it.
As for the rest, I think I’ll divide this part into the issues at stake. Don’t worry, it’s not half as incoherent as the SJ entry. 😉
Queerness and Gender
Almost all of my friends are sexuality-queer. I am bisexual. I would be upset if their love, and I suppose mine, were opposed or shamed or delegitimized due to gender.
I am bi-gender. I care deeply for my trans friends and I would defend them to the last drop of blood. I am saddened to see that they (and I suppose I’m included in this) would be disbelieved, hurt or discriminated against due to their genders. Cissexism and cisnormativity are both illogical and make no sense.
If there was clear evidence that the acceptance of non-straight sexuality resulted in unhappiness, inevitable painful dysfunction in life in general and in relationships even without homophobia and biphobia, or some kind of bizarre existential risk, like the invasion of aliens, and there was no plausible way to mitigate these results, then I would accept that my views were wrong.
If there were some evidence that transgenderism caused unhappiness, inevitable painful dysfunction in life in general and in relationships even without transphobia, or some kind of bizarre existential risk, and there were no plausible way to mitigate these risks, then I would accept that my views were wrong.
Maybe this is a bit weak-sounding, and I may have over-emphasized why I would change my mind.
I mostly stand by this. I would have written the “what would change my mind” portions differently, so that the part about transgenderism instead read something like “if there were evidence that transitioning was ineffective and that trans people inevitably died at higher rates, then I would change my mind and stop supporting and promoting transition” or something. In general I would have been clearer about exactly what belief I was going to be changing.
I think that some commentors were confused as to what my general philosophy was, so I’ll clarify.
Amusingly enough for a pro-SJ, I don’t believe in justice as such. My philosophy is some kind of classic-liberal contractarian philosophy, grounded in hypotheticals and amateur game theory, rather than a particular morality, as such. I typically value personal autonomy fairly highly, often above happiness, but my explanations of what I would actually change my mind on were likely overly vague and hence confusing.
There was someone who speculated that I was autistic. I do not know if I am autistic or not, but I’d like to be because it brings me closer to the Treasured Ingroup. I don’t think I am, though – maybe vaguely neurodivergent, but probably not autistic and probably within three standard deviations from the mean. Maybe?
Eliezer Yudkowsky’s decision theory was also mentioned, and I am pleased because Eliezer Yudkowsky is clearly the rightful caliph. I do in fact credit him for most of my philosophical structure.
I don’t think that gender is altogether a bad thing, and I fear that gender abolitionists don’t understand what they’re demolishing. Dysphoria’s horrible; but I also think that the most transcendent experiences in my life have been linked to my understanding of my own gender. The ways that I’ve imagined my ideal self in the mirror are in fact deeply connected to typical gender norms- imagining myself as a man in a dress, myself with long hair and looking like a girl, but “actually” being a boy, myself as a lovely femboy. And the way I experience attraction to others- oftentimes the way I perceive someone as attractive or not is directly linked to their gender. Does that make me a sexist? Does that enforce patriarchy? Of course not, and it doesn’t have to.
I would change my opinion here if it was shown that gender relied on patriarchy and that my experiences were the product of something else.
Maybe this was a bit unfair to the gender abolitionists, especially ones like Ozy, but I stand by it.
Societal gender is very important to me, and I am scared that it will be threatened; this is relevant to a lot of things, particularly Reconstructionism and a sort of unpolished essay viz. gender and transness that I’ve already written but which requires a lot of editing. It’s also a perspective I’ve come to by listening to my opponents, which is also an upcoming post.
I’ve mostly read very trans-positive gender abolitionists, like radtransfem.wordpress.com; but I really enjoyed reading the speculation about my potential transmasculine experiences. 🙂 It made my day to be referred to as transmasculine and I kind of want it to happen again.
I also enjoyed reading the comments by trans women about their experiences with gender abolitionism; I was obsessed with gender for around a year and one commentor in particular was on target. Gender was my main personal connection to SJ, given that I’m white-cultured and pretty much privileged in every other way.
So the consensus view here is that trans people and queers are valuable, that I would change my mind on specific things if it were shown that they were not beneficial under my philosophical system, and that I am afraid of gender abolitionism and in favor of some social norms.
(Also I like being called transmasculine.)
I didn’t have much to say about privilege here; in fact, I don’t mention it once!
I personally really dislike the idea, and that’s probably subconsciously affected my SJW paradigm.
But I do think that it’s occasionally useful; it was really a wake-up call for my 8th grade self about how privileged she was. Soooo I don’t want to abandon it completely.
Regarding this, a lot of leftists seem to think that every single member of an identity group agrees with the social justice consensus. This is completely false. Again, like with the man tear thing, it seems like a lot of social justice thinks it can categorize people into a label based on their actions, which I understand is actually a fairly sexist thing!
I would change my opinion on this if every single member of an identity group spontaneously began agreeing on something.
The whole idea of privilege also doesn’t make sense to me. A lot of social justice norms seem aimed at creating what Julia Serano calls a reverse discourse, this whole idea where privileged people need to shut the hell up and make space for others to talk. And honestly, this can be a really toxic dynamic. There are lots of sj type messages that say “It’s okay if you, an Oppressed Person, get angry with people and hurt them and can’t be civil in an argument”, and I don’t think that’s necessarily wrong, but look, okay, it implies that an Oppressed Person must get angry with people and be uncivil, and it implies that allies, in order to be properly Inclusive, must get angry with people and hurt then and become uncivil, and if you’re not visibly angry and you’re not hurting anyone and you’re civil, then you must be not a real Oppressed Person or not being a good ally or whatever.
And it also implies that, if you say something Oppressive, then clearly you deserve to be spoken harshly to. You deserve to be shamed and shunned and yelled at and all you get to do is apologize and if your opinion still differs then by God you’re an awful person. This is terrifying.
This reverse discourse also results in bad things like how, if a Privileged Person tries to say anything on a given subject, then they’re seen as “talking over” Oppressed People. “Talking over” other people is a horrible concept and it should be retired; the amount of times I’ve seen someone silenced or afraid to speak up because they didn’t want to “talk over” other people far outnumbers the amount of times I’ve seen the concept used to shut up an asshole who truly was speaking over others.
Some sj seems to really discourage empathy, as well. If someone’s talking about their experiences as a truly oppressed person, then the SJ Norm is for everyone else to shut up unless they’re a member of identity group x. They’re not allowed to relate their own experiences. They’re not allowed to have their own stories or their own connections. They’re allowed to listen and be Good Allies. And of course, there are some places for that. But in real life, conversations need more than one participant. And I’m afraid that this norm will end up making it so people of different backgrounds can’t relate to each other as well, so that there’s this crushing feeling of not-understanding, even if it isn’t necessarily the only option.
This relates to the idea that, if someone isn’t a member of a marginalized group, then it must be okay to hurt them and speak over them. And it also relates to how sometimes the sj-inclined act like power dynamics in the larger society apply to their sj group, when power can actually be distributed quite differently within subcultures.
I would change my opinion on the benefits of this reverse discourse if it appeared to actually aid people, or if sj started using it better.
Vehemently endorsed, with the caveat that I expressed my views far more aggressively than I would if not writing for the ITT. I think that privilege aids people sometimes, but hold a proportionally less extreme version of the above.
I also have since come up with the theory that privilege is a way of enforcing ideological conformity and creating Others. This also relates to freedom of speech, solidarity across oppressions, effective activism, and a general evaluation of privilege as an ideal and as it is used, all of which are things I will soon write about.
So the consensus view here is that privilege is an incredibly painful idea, but it sometimes aids people.
Women’s Rights and Intra-Societal Racial Issues
It’s wrong that people are treated unfairly, and it’s wrong that people’s autonomy is violated. I would be sad if I were a woman or a person of color or a female person of color who had been treated unfairly or abused due to my gender and/or race, so I must oppose patriarchy and white supremacy and support women’s rights and the rights of racial minorities. It is easy to imagine a likeable person of color and/or a likeable woman, and their needs are no less important than mine on a logical consequentialist level, so clearly it is important that they are treated well.
If women and people of color were shown to not be people with feelings (e.g. they were conclusively shown to be p-zombies), then I would change my opinion to place less priority on their “rights”. If women were shown to make suboptimal decisions that they later regretted, and paternal support altered their outcomes significantly in a way that made women happier, I would stop supporting women’s rights. If people of color were shown to a net bad effect – e.g., immigrants destroyed the economy, black people were all criminals – even without white supremacy in place, then I would alter my opinion thus.
Endorsed, mostly. You can see Yudkowsky’s decision theory really clearly here. The part about easily imagining a likable woman and/or person of color was a little weird, but it serves as an explanation of the emotion reasoning.
I have not established egalitarian consequentialism, as a particularly astute commentor noted, but in fact I don’t endorse egalitarian consequentialism. People who can produce higher utilons for less effort should be focused on over the less utility-monstrous, because the origin of utilons doesn’t matter.
This would obviously lead to some really stupid things like tiling the world with insert whatever, except that no one actually wants to tile, almost no one wants to be made into an optimal utility-producing tile (probably some hedonics, but probably rather few preference tiles), and it would thus violate the social contract.
(I will discuss this more. In another post.)
The part where I talk about immigration is still interesting to me. In general, I think that accepting immigrants is probably a net good and it likely works towards Pareto optimality. But it’s still interesting to think about the hypotheticals- like, what if each individual immigrant is okay until they reach critical mass and start establishing TERRORIST GROUPS and FIFTH COLUMNS and-
but anyway, I am pretty sure that empirically that does not happen, but if it did I would definitely have to reevaluate my views. There are too many unknown variables for me to specify the criteria I would have, but I would definitely scrutinize my fairly-vague opinions more closely.
As for women and being taken care of by their fathers, I can see why the happiness of women would be a weird thing to change my mind over. But there’s also the argument that this is just a weird valley between two wonderful absolutes, Lord Patriarch’s Female Slave World and Feminatopia, and there’s no going back to Lord Patriarch’s Female Slave World so we had better progress until we get to Feminatopia, as Scott Alexander argues here.
In order to get me to change my opinion on this, the arguer would have to convince me that Feminatopia doesn’t exist, because, say, “women are stupid and can’t optimize their own preferences”; or that Feminatopia necessarily had sufficiently awful consequences for utility.
For some reason, I don’t at all address police brutality, but rest assured that I think the criminal justice system needs to be reformed.
Some of the stranger hypotheticals were absurd and offensive. That’s why they are hypotheticals rather than things I already believe.
…I don’t discuss women’s rights at all. Or racial issues. At all. Probably this is a good thing?
I do discuss men’s issues in detail here, though:
Sexism, by the way, is something that a lot of feminists ignore when it’s against men. Yes, there’s sexism against men. There is misandry. And a lot of times feminism seems to reinforce this message of misandry. Of judging men by their appearances. Of claims of “mansplaining”, as if anyone could tell someone else’s gender socialization or their position of power through a somewhat condescending explanation. Of presumptions that men are rapists and always sex-hungry, which play into the erasure of male rape survivors. Even that people attracted to women – mostly straight men – are inherently predatory or disgusting, which is couched in feminist language like “objectification”.
I would change my opinion on this if it was shown that, as a societal pattern, men were not subject to prejudice, and I would change my opinion on sj’s opinion on this if more feminists and sjs talked about men’s issues.
The consensus is that racism is bad and patriarchy hurts everyone. Original, I know.
Imperialism, Colonialism, Capitalism
Imperialism is clearly wrong. It’s just plain mean, and it involves violating people’s autonomy and telling them what to do. Colonialism means stealing people’s land and destroying their culture. That’s not a good thing. I’m not really sure how else to articulate this, but it just seems like a mean thing to do and I would be emotionally upset if I saw something like this happening. In the present day, it’s important to make sure that imperial and colonial structures aren’t replicated or utilized because of the disastrous results in history.
If imperialism was shown to actually have better results, measured in happiness and unbiased opinion polls, than a lack of imperialism, then I would change my historical opinion. If taking people’s land arbitrarily was shown to have good effects in the long run, or was shown necessary to prevent atrocities such as the Holocaust, I would alter my historical opinion. If taking people’s land and exploiting them was shown to not only have a net positive result, but also to be better than all other options, then I would change my opinion of the present day.
I really don’t know much about imperialism and colonialism, but better minds than me have decided that it’s probably wrong. Also, social contract theory.
I vacillate between eudaemonic, hedonic, and preference utilitarianism, so the day I wrote this essay must have been a hedonic day.
You’ll note that I bring up the Holocaust in both essays, which makes sense since it has shaped my worldview quite significantly since I read Night.
On a somewhat different note- I really dislike some sj denunciations of capitalism. Capitalism has wrought an immense amount of benefit for the world. It’s one of the only reliable ways to raise countries out of poverty; and it has uplifted something like billions of people. It is the engine of the people’s choices and autonomy. The “crises” of capitalism haven’t been particularly bad compared to the crises before capitalism. It’s only because people don’t multiply that they don’t realize that peasant life and serf life haven’t been that great for peasants and serfs. That the old orders of certain countries have been corrupt and despotic and terrible, and that they have hurt far more poor people than capitalism has. Living standards have almost always gone up after a country industrializes and modernizes.
I would change my opinion on this if it were shown that capitalism was a net bad for the world, or if it were shown that coercion, exploitation, and (actual) imperialism by conquest were inherent aspects of capitalism.
And as for international interventions. I don’t buy that Western countries should always, always stay out of other countries. Maybe preventing genocide or destroying prison camps is imperialistic, but, um, does it matter? Yes, America in particular often has human rights abuses of its own, such as torture or prison camps or nuclear weapons, I’m not denying that, but this hypocrisy isn’t reason to let other countries also have nuclear weapons or prison camps! America, as the only remaining superpower, has a responsibility, as articulated by philosophical perspectives on the Holocaust, to prevent atrocities, even if it hurts her people, even if she must spend billions upon billions of dollars upon defense, even if she has no interests in a given region. The American revolution wasn’t won by Americans- it was won by the French allies.
When I wrote this, it was fully endorsed, but my views on capitalism have changed since then. I still agree with the spirit, but would have defended capitalism less stridently now.
The part about interventionism is… complicated, but I think I still agree with it.
Otherkin and Ableism
We should be nice to people who aren’t hurting anyone and who seem to be doing what works for them.
If it were shown that being otherkin had deletorious effects, even with, say, a universal basic income or a solid community, then I would change my opinion.
Disabled people are people, and if I were disabled I would want accommodations and validation and autonomy.
If it were shown that disabled people weren’t able to make good decisions and in fact did not benefit from accommodations on average, then I would change my opinion on this.
Neither of my selves have strong opinions on otherkin or the (mentally and/or physically) disabled. I realize that this is a larger problem within feminism, but I really don’t have that much status in convincing people of things.
So, sorry, yeah. I do care, but I doubt that my efforts would actually be useful to the disability rights movement relative to the inputs required. But I’m definitely willing to read articles or things if anyone wants to send me them! 🙂
And if I somehow become influential, I will definitely mention important issues about disability rights (universal basic income is relevant here, right? as is slashing/implementing various legislation viz. suicide?). If I become close to a disabled person I will definitely do more research about their disability in particular!
Consensus is that forced institutionalization is usually bad, stopping people from well-considered suicide is usually bad, effective accommodations are usually good, and that judging people for having non-normative features is usually bad.
3. Explain Gamergate.
I had no clue what Gamergate was, and it showed.
I had some valuable points about objectification and love in the ASJ section, but otherwise it was pretty much clueless.
Consensus opinion is that Zoe Quinn is an abuser and that objectification isn’t that bad.
So this was my write-up concerning the ITT.
As a summary:
Intersex issues are important, I like respecting other people’s viewpoints and trying to meet them on their own terms, privilege makes me feel anxious and discredited, men are very oppressed, and contractarian autonomy is very important for maximizing utility.
Articles that I Need to Write
Tiling Problems (0%)
Gender Abolitionism and Transness (80%)
Effective Activism (40%)
Freedom of Speech (30%)
including something about emotions
Solidarity Across Oppressions (0%)
Different Types and Usages of “Privilege” (30%)
Anti-Colonialism: Why It’s Kind of Irritating (0%)
Articles That I Have Somehow Written!