Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Desire for X versus the Desire to Perceive Oneself As Promoting X

Thanks to Bryan Caplan, I was able to read In Praise of Passivity by Mike Huemer. Beyond what I would consider a bit too much faith in 'all experts agree' (I think we should only take that as gospel if all experts agree the government should do nothing) and being much more dubious about democracy, I liked it very much.

The basic premise is this- your desire to change the world is screwing the world up. STOP! STOP NOW!

One of the reasons your world changing attempts suck so bad is because you don't understand the world nor do you understand how what you are trying to do is going to effect the world. In many cases this is because actually finding out would interfere with your happy feelings:

But there is at least one way of distinguishing the desire for X
from the desire to perceive oneself as promoting X.
This is to observe the subject’s efforts at finding out what promotes X.
The basic insight here is that the desire
[to perceive oneself as promoting X] is satisfied
as long as one does something that one believes will promote X,
whereas the desire for X will be satisfied
only if one successfully promotes X.
Thus, only the person seeking X itself
needs accurate beliefs about what promotes X;
one who merely desires the sense of promoting X needs strong beliefs
so that she will have a strong sense of promoting X)
but not necessarily true beliefs on this score.

You can read X as community, Jesus, Church, Kingdom of God, society, civilization, in addition to the more obviously political stuff the Huemer is dealing with.

And I have probably developed an allergy, at this point, to anyone saying this crap without showing any evidence of understanding how communities manage to exist inter-generationally. If you are going to waste your assets signalling- and this is about all you are doing, signalling your social status, if you are running your children through the worthless degree mill- then those assets won't be around for your children to buy capital goods with and actually produce enough for their own children and whatever community there might be. There won't even be community level capital goods, as there were for millenia (like community ovens)- oh no, whatever a community manages to save must be spent making X=evangelism.

Conversion rates are consistently single digits. A fertile young woman evangelist is retarded. Neither literate (biblical) nor numerate, since one can reasonable expect she could raise more Christian children than she could ever convert. And when you've actually got people about the business of living appropriately, then other people can see it and say, hey, I want to live that way too.

If you really want to see me kill a meme dead, and in the process pretty much prove that it is an example of the desire to perceive oneself as promoting X rather than the actual promotion of X, here are a few links about 'personal relationship with Jesus.' First the chart showing the rise of the term. I am trusting you, dear reader, to realize that actual relationships with Jesus dropped off massively during that time. Then there is my questioning as to whether or not this is even biblical, and some speculation as to its origins and why it lacks. Finally, let me link to Perfection Surpasses Being because the genesis of that post was actually due to having to put up with another round of 'personal relationship with Jesus'/evangelism talk, which had even then become obviously 'let's talk about this to assuage our desire to see ourselves as evangelists, and then acheive absolutely nothing.
I actually wrote something down and gave it to someone. I titled it The Handbook For the Desperate Evangelist, though I must say I never really wrote enough for it to be a handbook. Needless to say, it was not well received. Huemer provides the reason:

If people are seeking high ideals such as justice
or the good of society, then they will work hard at figuring out
what in fact promotes those ideals and will seek out information
to correct any errors in their assumptions about what promotes
their ideals, since mistaken beliefs on this score could lead
to all of their efforts being wasted. If, on the other hand,
people seek the mere sense of promoting high ideals, then they
will exercise little care in adopting beliefs about what promotes
their ideals, and they will avoid gathering information that might
undermine those beliefs. They will adopt habits that lead to their
having strong beliefs that are very difficult to overturn.

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