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Post 20

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 - 1:39pmSanction this postReply
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Ed, this is really an aside and NOT to be considered part of the discussion.  It only has to do with discussing small children in this context. 

If we survey what adults do and attempt to extrapolate what human nature is from the results we always have to factor out whatever effects the culture has had on their development.  But if we attempt to examine children at an early age to eliminate many of those factors we run into a different problem.  There is a process of natural development that takes place before a child is fully rational.  When one little little kid whacks another over the head it may not be an imitation of arbitray authority it might be an immature expression of anger or if they are really young just doing something that expresses efficacy with no understanding that it is "another person" that is being hit.


Post 21

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 - 2:00pmSanction this postReply
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Robert,

Thank you for the article.  I really enjoyed it. 

I was reminded me of certain polynesian cultures where because of a casual attitude towards sex there was never any certainty as to who the father of a child was.  This presented problems for inheritence - who would own a grove of coconut trees when the current owner died?  So all property was owned by the matriarch and passed down the female side of the family.  You always knew who your mother was.

There are still today, groups in Northern Indonesia that live by primarily by trading.  The woman is the owner of the rather large sailling vessels but chooses for her mate the man that will be the captain.  He and his crew sail - transporting things like lumber from places like Borneo to Jakarta.  Meanwhile, the women, the children and the old live in a make-shift village along a navigable river.  Their houses are usually on stilts and the sail boats can tie up to them when home.  The villagers engage in agriculture while the sailors trade.  It is slash and burn cropping and when the soil is exhausted they load everything aboard the boats and move to a new area and build new houses.  Would this be an exception to the concept that settlements had to come before agriculture?

Have you ever read Warren Farrell's Why Men are the way they are?  I think you'd enjoy it.


Post 22

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 - 2:19pmSanction this postReply
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Rev',

Are you talking about the trading people who were taken over by warriors from another island (to or from Easter Island?), totally supplanting their ancient culture?

In other words, are you saying that -- in order to even exist -- traders "need" takers (perhaps for protection)? If so, then how do you explain the superior-trading H. sapiens totally supplanting the superior-taking Neanderthal?

Curious.

Ed



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Post 23

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 - 2:57pmSanction this postReply
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Steve,

But if we attempt to examine children at an early age to eliminate many of those factors we run into a different problem.  There is a process of natural development that takes place before a child is fully rational. When one little little kid whacks another over the head it may not be an imitation of arbitra[r]y authority it might be an ...
To be honest, I don't see how it even matters (to my point) what particular motive a transgressor might have had when transgressing -- because it's the response of the victims of the transgressions -- which I'm basing my point on. To cut to the chase and put a fine point on it, I'm talking about a de-mysticized Natural Law. Here's a long string of quotes (from http://jim.com/rights.html ) which makes this point of mine, but much, much more comprehensively ...

Natural law has objective, external existence. It follows from the ESS (evolutionary stable strategy) for the use of force that is natural for humans and similar animals. The ability to make moral judgments, the capacity to know good and evil, has immediate evolutionary benefits: just as the capacity to perceive three dimensionally tells me when I am standing on the edge of a cliff, so the capacity to know good and evil tells me if my companions are liable to cut my throat. It evolved in the same way, for the same straightforward and uncomplicated reasons, as our ability to throw rocks accurately.
The historical state of nature definition: Natural law is that law which corresponds to a spontaneous order in the absence of a state and which is enforced, (in the absence of better methods), by individual unorganized violence ...
The medieval / philosophical definition: Natural law is that law, which it is proper to uphold by unorganized individual violence, whether a state is present or absent, and for which, in the absence of orderly society, it is proper to punish violators by unorganized individual violence.
The scientific/ sociobiological/ game theoretic/ evolutionary definition: Natural law is, or follows from, an ESS for the use of force: Conduct which violates natural law is conduct such that, if a man were to use individual unorganized violence to prevent such conduct, or, in the absence of orderly society, use individual unorganized violence to punish such conduct, then such violence would not indicate that the person using such violence, (violence in accord with natural law) is a danger to a reasonable man. This definition is equivalent to the definition that comes from the game theory of iterated three or more player non zero sum games, applied to evolutionary theory. The idea of law, of actions being lawful or unlawful, has the emotional significance that it does have, because this ESS for the use of force is part of our nature.

The Greeks could see that we could recognize actions as inherently lawful or unlawful, without the need of the state to tell us. (They had lived through some excellent examples of lawless states.)
Aristotle and others argued that each kind of animal has a mental nature that is appropriate to its physical nature. All animals know or can discover what they need to do in order to lead the life that they are physically fitted to live. Thus humans are naturally capable of knowing how to live together and do business with each other without killing each other. Humans are capable of knowing natural law because, in a state of nature, they need to be capable of knowing it.

This theory was demonstrated rather successfully in the “Wild West”, which history shows was not nearly as wild as many modern cities with strict gun control. Beyond the reach of state power, property rights existed, businesses functioned. (Kopel, 323 -373)
The problem of “how do we know natural law” is no different from the other problems of perception. The arguments used by those that seek to prove that we cannot know natural law, therefore natural law does not exist, are precisely the same as the arguments that we cannot know anything, therefore nothing exists, and many notable philosophers, such as Berkeley and Bertrand Russell, who started out arguing that natural law does not exist ended up concluding exactly that - that nothing exists.
Natural law derives from the nature of man and the world, just as physical law derives from the nature of space, time, and matter.
As a result most people who are not philosophers or lawyers accept natural law as the ultimate basis of all law and ethics, a view expressed most forcibly in recent times at the Nuremberg trials. Philosophers, because they often refuse to look at external facts, are unable to draw any conclusions, and therefore usually come to the false conclusion that one cannot reach objectively true conclusions about matters of morality and law, mistaking self imposed ignorance for knowledge.
Natural law was discovered (not invented, not created, discovered) by the stoic philosophers. This was the answer (not their answer, the answer) to the logical problems raised by Socrates. The doctrines of the stoics were demonstrated successfully by experiment, but political circumstances (the Alexandrine empire and then the Roman empire) prevented a clear and decisive experiment.
Not all laws are arbitrary, there must be laws universally applicable, because of the universal nature of man. Laws governing human affairs, or at least some of those laws, must derive from some objective and external reality, not subject to the arbitrary will of the ruler or the people. If this was not so, then it would be impossible to make an unlawful law. Any law duly decreed by a legitimate ruling body, such as the Athenian assembly, would necessarily be lawful, yet history shows that this was obviously false. Some laws are clearly unlawful. Proof by contradiction.
A philosopher can choose to disbelieve in Newton's laws, but this will not enable him to fly. He can disbelieve in natural law, but political and social institutions built on false law will fail, just as a bridge built on false physical law will fall, just as the deer that does not notice the tiger gets eaten, just as the Marxist philosophers who voluntarily returned to Cambodia to aid the revolution were for the most part murdered or tortured to death by the revolutionaries.
Thus the Netherlands came to be governed predominantly by natural law, rather than by men or by customary law.

Society ran itself smoothly. This showed that natural law was complete and logically consistent. Of course since natural law is external and objective it has to be complete and consistent, but our understanding of natural law is necessarily incomplete and imperfect, so our understanding of it might have been dangerously incomplete, inconsistent, or plain wrong. The experience of the Dutch strongly supports the belief that our understanding of natural law, the medieval theory of natural law as interpreted by medieval lawyers, is fairly close to the truth. If natural law was just something that somebody made up out of their heads, it would not have worked. Internal inconsistencies would have lead to conflicts that could not be resolved within natural law, requiring the man on horseback to apply fiat law or customary law to resolve them. Incompleteness would have lead to unacceptable lawless behavior. None of this happened, powerful evidence that natural law is not just something invented, but something external and objective that we are able to perceive, like the tiger, like the law of gravity.
John Locke made a major advance to our understanding of natural law, by emphasizing the nature of man as a maker of things, and a property owning animal. This leads to a more extensive concept of natural rights than the previous discussions of natural law. From the right to self defense comes the right to the rule of law, but from the right to property comes a multitude of like rights, such as the right to privacy “An Englishman's home is his castle.” Further, Locke repeatedly, in ringing words, reminded us that a ruler is legitimate so far as he upholds the law.

A ruler that violates natural law is illegitimate. He has no right to be obeyed, his commands are mere force and coercion. Rulers who act lawlessly, whose laws are unlawful, are mere criminals, and should be dealt with in accordance with natural law, as applied in a state of nature, in other words they and their servants should be killed as the opportunity presents, like the dangerous animals that they are, the common enemies of all mankind.

John Locke's writings were a call to arms, an assertion of the right and duty to forcibly and violently remove illegitimate rulers and their servants.
Natural law is a method, not a code. One does not reason from words but from facts. The nearest thing to a written code of natural law is the vast body of natural law precedent. But a precedent only applies to similar cases, and is thus rooted in the particular time and circumstances of the particular case, whereas natural law is universal, applying to all free men at all times and all places.

As Hugo Grotius pointed out in the early seventeenth century, even if there was no God, or if God was unreasonable or evil, natural law would still have moral force, and men would still spontaneously back it with physical force.
Throughout most of our evolution, men have been in a state of nature, that is to say. without government, hierarchically organized religion, or an orderly and widely accepted means of resolving disputes. For the past four or five million years the capacity to discern evil lurking in the hearts of men has been an even more crucial survival capability than the capacity to discern tigers lurking in shadows.

The primary purpose of this capability was to guide us in who we should associate with, (so as to avoid having our throats cut in our sleep), who we should make alliance with (to avoid betrayal), who we should trade with, (to avoid being cheated), who we should avoid, who we should drive away, and who, to make ourselves safe, we should kill.

It would frequently happen that one man would, for some reason good or bad, use violence against another. When this happened those knowing of this event needed to decide whether it indicated that the person using force was brave and honorable, hence a potentially valuable ally, or foolish and eager for trouble, hence someone to be avoided, or a dangerous criminal, hence someone to be driven out or eliminated at the first safe opportunity to do so. Such decisions had to be made from time to time, and making them wrongly could be fatal, and often was fatal.

A secondary purpose of this capability was to guide us in our own conduct, to so conduct ourselves that others would be willing to associate with us, ally with us, do deals with us, and would refrain from driving us away or killing us.
Not all things that are evil, or contrary to nature, are violations of natural law. Violations of natural law are those evils that may rightly be opposed by force, by individual unorganized violence.

The Medievals took for granted that natural law was morally and legally binding on freeholder, Emperor and Pope alike, and during the dark ages and for a little time after, men often attempted to enforce natural law against the Holy Roman Emperor, and these attempts were sometimes successful. On one occasion the Holy Roman Emperor was briefly imprisoned for debt by an ordinary butcher, locked up with the beef and mutton, and held by the butcher until the bill was paid, and this action was mostly accepted as lawful and proper, though such actions were safer against some emperors than others.
The definition of natural law that I have just given is similar to that used in the middle ages, but this definition is not obviously scientific. It fails to show that natural law is legitimately part of science. To show that the study of natural law is part of science - part of sociobiology, it is necessary to restate the definition in the same value free, game theoretic, terminology that Reeve & Nonacs would use to describe the social contract in wasps.

Here follows a definition of natural law in properly scientific terms, value free terms:

An act is a violation of natural law if, were a man to commit such an act in a state of nature, (that is to say, in the absence of an orderly and widely accepted method of resolving disputes), a second man, knowing the facts and being a reasonable man, would reasonably conclude that the first man constituted a threat or danger to the second man, his family, or his property, and if a third man, knowing the facts and being a reasonable man, were to observe the second man getting rid of the first man, the third man would not reasonably conclude that the second man constituted a threat or danger to third man, his family, or his property.

Note that in order to define natural law in a value neutral fashion we require three people, not two.
When we apply the value free theory of iterated non zero sum two player games to the value free theory of evolution we get such value loaded concepts as trust, honor, and vengeance (Barkow, Cosmides and Tooby). In the same way, when we apply the value free theory of iterated three player non zero sum games we get such value loaded concepts as natural law.

Natural law theory is a valid part of science, because any n person natural law statement about values can be expressed as an explicitly scientific, value free statement about rational self interest, evolution, and n + 1 player game theory. It is also a valid part of the study of law and economics
Ed


Post 24

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 - 3:07pmSanction this postReply
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Quite the contrary, E d.....

Post 25

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 - 4:34pmSanction this postReply
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Ed, these are three different things.  There is the thread (which I'm not addressing in this post), there is the description of natural law, and then there is that brief argument using behavior of small children.  I tried to say in my previous post that I was just addressing the problem of using small children in an area involving human nature.

On the behavior of small children you said:
Small children -- who are without an explicitly-defined moral code -- already impose the trader principle on each other. Takers are shunned. Taking can't "take hold" among a young one (unless parents -- read: ARBITRARY POWER -- always pick up the slack for the lost values that Takers will always perpetuate on themselves because of the kind of creatures that we are).
All I did was point out that a small child can hit another out of anger or not even understanding that the other is a person.  And it should be clear that the child who was hit might just burst into tear from being startled and also might not even know they were hit by another person.  I see NO WHERE in that example proof of the trader or taker principle being imposed or of learned arbitrary power being applied.  There are other problems with that paragraph.  You say that taking can't "take hold" amoung young ones unless parents step in and teach arbitrary power.  If that were the case, how did the parent learn it?  It is clear to me that out of the unknowing and chaotic preconceptual state of the very young - both taking and trading are, of necessity, learned patterns or beliefs.

There are so many problems with the quotes you provided I hardly know where to start.  One quote was,
An act is a violation of natural law if, were a man to commit such an act in a state of nature, (that is to say, in the absence of an orderly and widely accepted method of resolving disputes...
Well, for man, a state of nature includes thinking and philosophy and man-made laws, courts, etc.  Taking a man out of the aspects of his culture that he created to live life as proper to man is akin to taking a fish out of water and then saying that now that Mr. Fish is in his natural state, let's see what he does.

Continuing on in that same paragraph it says,
...being a reasonable man, would reasonably conclude that the first man constituted a threat or danger to the second man, his family, or his property...
Now, this is supposed to be a value free definition of natural law.  Well, the part about "being a reasonable" man is, in itself, part of a dispute resolution system and family as well as property are values and property requires rules just to define them.  The word "threat" makes no sense outside of the context of value.  Ed, this is not like you to swallow all this fuzzy, jargon-laden nonsense.

Law has two common meanings - those rules that confine human behavior that might have been otherwise and the scientific description of necessary natural phenomena.  This smells to me like an attempt of academicians to do an end run around the fact that they threw free-will out the window and now they want a way to discuss putting limits on human behavior and will couch what they come up with as expressions of "natural law".

ESS is something that needs to be handled with care until you define the unit of selection.  For example, as Dawkins says, we are just the means by which the gene leverages itself into the next generation.  That makes genetic virtue of a different stripe.  Genetic virtue is best served by the greatest fecunditiy and the quality of life is absolutely unimportant (not to the gene and it is driving that ESS).

I have no idea why you would want to abandon free will to jump into bed with sociobiologists to make determinations on the valid use of force for human beings when Rands descriptions of human nature, "natural" rights, and law are not in contradiction with evolution or science.


Post 26

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 - 12:24amSanction this postReply
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Steve, thanks for the continued engagement. This seems to be our first formal disagreement. I'm a little excited but yet, undeniably anxious about that ...

All I did was point out that a small child can hit another out of anger or not even understanding that the other is a person.  And it should be clear that the child who was hit might just burst into tear from being startled and also might not even know they were hit by another person.  I see NO WHERE in that example proof of the trader or taker principle being imposed or of learned arbitrary power being applied.
Forgive the Clinton paraphrase, but let's take a village (hypothetically). There's a bully-preschooler in the village, and then there are several other pre-schoolers who aren't bullies (this admittedly assumes that humans aren't predominantly-inherent bullies -- at least not at the pre-school age!). The bully takes away someone else's toy -- forcefully. The other kids watch this. How do you think the other kids will treat the bully thereafter?

Do you think that they'll as readily engage him in games (as they would with the ones that they've observed to exhibit fairness)?

Do you think that they'll as readily share toys with him (as they would with the ones that they've observed to exhibit fairness)?

Do you think that they'll as readily come to his aid in times of need (as they would with the ones that they've observed to exhibit fairness)?

That's my point (do you see it?).

You say that taking can't "take hold" amoung young ones unless parents step in and teach arbitrary power.  If that were the case, how did the parent learn it?  It is clear to me that out of the unknowing and chaotic preconceptual state of the very young - both taking and trading are, of necessity, learned patterns or beliefs.
A single parent, or a set of parents, can "learn it" (at the sacrifice of others) -- though "all" parents couldn't ever learn this, at the same time, and in the same respect (as it's impossible to have a species that is entirely parasitic on itself, with no non-predatory members to "rely" on). I'll concede the point that taking and trading are learned. What I won't concede is any point that says that taking and trading are "comparatively" learned (i.e., with no natural predominance of one of them over the other).

Well, for man, a state of nature includes thinking and philosophy and man-made laws, courts, etc.  Taking a man out of the aspects of his culture that he created to live life as proper to man is akin to taking a fish out of water and then saying that now that Mr. Fish is in his natural state, let's see what he does.


I disagree that, for man, a state of nature involves positive ("man-made") law and "courts, etc." I also disagree with the fish analogy. Men came out of the jungle via volition, fish came out of the sea against their "better" judgment.

;-)

The word "threat" makes no sense outside of the context of value.  Ed, this is not like you to swallow all this fuzzy, jargon-laden nonsense.

Well, consider me acting out of character, then.

;-)

In truth, I swallow a lot of things (to see if I can "digest" them). I concede the issue that James Donald might have bit-off more than HE could chew when he attempted a "value-free" definition of something so crucial to human happiness as natural law (as if fact ... and value ... were necessarily dichotomized!).


I have no idea why you would want to abandon free will to jump into bed with sociobiologists to make determinations on the valid use of force for human beings when Rands descriptions of human nature, "natural" rights, and law are not in contradiction with evolution or science.
In truth, I jump into bed with a ... er ... uh ... oh dear ... I didn't mean for that to come out THAT way!

;-)

Anyhoo, who says that I'm abandoning free will?! Show me WHERE! All I'm talking about is identity and causality (identity applied to action). If inclined, then please show me where I stray from those 2 notions.

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 4/04, 12:28am)


Post 27

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 - 1:55amSanction this postReply
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Ed,

On your example:
The bully takes away someone else's toy -- forcefully. The other kids watch this. How do you think the other kids will treat the bully thereafter?

Do you think that they'll as readily engage him in games (as they would with the ones that they've observed to exhibit fairness)?

Do you think that they'll as readily share toys with him (as they would with the ones that they've observed to exhibit fairness)?

Do you think that they'll as readily come to his aid in times of need (as they would with the ones that they've observed to exhibit fairness)?

That's my point (do you see it?).
Well, I can answer those questions like this: No, they won't engage him in games as much.  No, they are less likely to share.  No, they are less likely to come to his aid.

But, he may continue to be a bully for a great many reasons, for example, he may need to excite fear in others to feel secure.  He may enjoy their fear.  He may be imitating his father.  He may be acting out of anger, which in children is usually a mask for depression.  And when others pull back from him, he may compensate by doing more bullying.  There may be one or two others that decide to join him and be bullies as well.  Some of the kids may respond by appeasing, some by resisting. some by avoidance.  So, no I don't see your point from that example.  If you ask any kindergarten teacher they will tell you - kids have to be taught to share. 

I keep wanting to say, don't use kid examples, they aren't likely to take you where you want to go, but I don't really know where you are trying to go with all of this.

I believe that Robert coined the "Taking" label.  It was origonally called the "Guardian" syndrome by Jane Jacobs when she wrote about it in Systems of Survival and it is a set of interdependent moral precepts that are appropriate to the organization and management of territory.  They are not a code just for tyrants but not for a civilized and reasonable government as well (although not at the level that Rand envisioned).  Included are precepts like be loyal, adhere to tradition, exert prowess, show fortitude, treasure honor, etc.  It is an evolved set of rules (rather than created) that provided stability and reduced conflict. 

I tell you all of this so you understand where I'm coming from when I say the "Taking" or Guardian syndrome isn't what is behind one child snatching a toy from another.  And the "Trader" syndrome isn't behind their sharing.  Both of the children are just attempting to interact in crude ways while learning to be civilized and developing who they are going to become as people.  And remember, "sharing" as such is not "trading" - when it is taught to kids it is usually a mixture of altruism and "fairness."  Both snatching and sharing are behaviors that children learn and try and keep or discard.  

You are saying that "Trading" which is Jane Jacobs collection of syndroms (she called it the Commercial syndrome) is predominately learned over the "Taking" syndrome.  And that it is predominately learned because it is a "natural law."  In one sense you are correct.  Jane Jacobs said that each of the moralities arose naturally out of the needs imposed by the activities that man was engaged in.  She believed that goverment, all governments should abide by the Guardian code and that all private enterprise should abide by the Commercial (Trader) code.  We live in a mixed economy but it makes sense to train our young for voluntary interactions.  But you'll notice this doesn't come close to creating any ESS.  I don't see your child example as going anywhere for natural law or for ESS.

Now, before I go further, let me ask this.  Are your arguments for natural law or ESS related to one or both of the following :
- A way to have a form of anarchy yet still have a kind of law?
- A 'scientific' foundation for ethics?
(I'm trying to understand the overall structure you'd like to fit them into)


Post 28

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 - 7:17amSanction this postReply
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Steve, my arguments are related to a scientific foundation for correct ethics and correct politics.

Does that help?

Ed

p.s. I'll respond to your points later (busy now).

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 4/04, 7:18am)


Post 29

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 - 10:30amSanction this postReply
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Ed, yes that helps.  Then it isn't in support for any form of anarchy?

Steve


Post 30

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 - 4:50pmSanction this postReply
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Steve,

Natural Law is what it is that "informs" positive, or "man-made" law (the positive law of a minarchy). Minarchy (governing big enough to retaliate against transgressions of our natural, individual rights -- yet small enough NOT to simultaneously trample on them) is right and good -- and can be scientifically shown to be so -- for humans on earth.

Is my position getting clearer, post by post?

Ed


Post 31

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 - 5:01pmSanction this postReply
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Ed,

That was exactly what I needed.  (I know that natural law can work as a rationale for anarchist thought and wanted to be sure that wasn't the case here.)

So, you see natural law, upgraded from its historical description by modern thought like sociobiology, evolution, ESS, etc. as a means for helping formulate better man-made laws (statutes).  Thanks for being patient with me.

There are several questions that come to mind (conflicts with free-will, potential conflicts with laws derived from Objectivist ethics, etc.)  But let me think a little bit before I get back to you. 


Post 32

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 - 7:07pmSanction this postReply
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Steve, please forgive if this late response to your earlier points ends up being distracting from our recent progress ... 

But, he may continue to be a bully for a great many reasons ...
Point conceded. I'm not saying that folks won't continue to be bullies -- I'm saying that in a properly-ordered society (or in that state of nature dubbed pre-society), they can't thrive as bullies. The cliche` is: "Live by the sword, die by the sword" and the wisdom meant by it is that men are that type of creature who will, eventually, treat you in kind (it's part of our nature to do that).

Of course, I'm a little biased (I'm a former vigilante). You might even say that I'm simply trying to psychologically justify the harm and destruction that I used to bring to some of the people in this world -- the people who seemed so clearly to "deserve" to be harmed -- when the official avenues of justice and law enforcement seemed insufficient to exact appropriate retribution and/or restitution. Don't get me wrong, I believe in official avenues (I've even personally used them in order to gain justice) -- and I've now given-up on taking the law into my own hands.

;-)

I keep wanting to say, don't use kid examples, they aren't likely to take you where you want to go ...

You're probably aware of my motive in doing that: of trying to capture the human mind before a corrupt philosophy has taken hold of it.

;-)

I believe that Robert coined the "Taking" label.  It was orig[i]nally called the "Guardian" syndrome by Jane Jacobs ...

I confess ignorance on this matter, and whereof one hasn't been, thereof one shouldn't speak. So I will just take your word and wisdom on this matter, until and unless I decide to educate myself by seeking out the works of Jacobs herself.

Ed


Post 33

Monday, November 2, 2009 - 12:04pmSanction this postReply
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Nice to see this back again...

Post 34

Saturday, September 3 - 8:41pmSanction this postReply
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Unfortunately, Ed is not here to add to the discussion. His claim that our idea of fairness is universal, and validated across many cultures is not true. The opposite is true: our views are peculiar: western, educated, industrial, rational, and democratic. (WEIRD). Different peoples have differing opinions.

 

“The Weirdest People in the World: How representative are experimental findings from American university students? What do we really know about human psychology?” by Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine, and Ara Norenzayan (all from the University of British Columbia Department of Psychology and  published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Vol33; 2-3 , June 2010, pp 61-83; available from the authors here) explains that we have made ourselves – the Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic people – the standard for “human nature.”  They say cogently that psychological experiments which supposedly tease out the basic patterns of “human nature” really tell us only about a small group: undergraduates in psychology departments, their friends, and sometimes their young children. The paper demonstrates that most people on Earth seem to hold entirely different views than we do.  And “views” is the basic problem.  What we accept as standard optical illusions work differently or not at all among different peoples around the world.  The paper is well worth the time to read through and mark up.

 

In the Ultimatum game, one party is given a largess with instructions to share whatever they want with the other party.  If the other party feels that the split is inequitable, no one gets anything.  In our society, most people draw the line at a 70-30 share.  If the recipient does not get at least 30%, then no deal.  Some other people are more rational in the pure market sense: any gain is better than nothing. Some other cultures feel that the distributor is under no obligation to share anything.  Some people (especially in Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia) will engage in "altruistic punishment" where they would pay out from their own share without recompense to bring a loss to an unfair distributor.  (From my review on my blog, NecessaryFacts.)

 



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