Re: MD What makes an idea dangerous?

From: Wim Nusselder (
Date: Tue Oct 28 2003 - 22:13:18 GMT

  • Next message: David Harding: "Re: MD The MOQ makes inroads"

    Dear Platt,

    You wrote 28 Oct 2003 11:07:37 -0500:
    'I agree that social changes are slower than intellectual. But we may be
    witnessing a rapid change in social values in Iraq today. What do you

    Depends on how you define 'social values'. I prefer to use 'social patterns
    of value' instead of 'social values'. How do you define 'social values'? Was
    I right in supposing that 'social values' for you are 'intellectual patterns
    of value that motivate people to hold societies together' according to my
    definitions? In that case I agree.

    Examples of the habitual patterns of behaviour that define societies and
    change relatively little despite political revolutions are the ways in which
    Russian and Chinese subjects relate to those in power. Russian peasants
    related in much the same way to their Czarist rulers as they did to Stalin's
    regime. Kolchoz and Sovchoz organization of agriculture closely resembled
    bonded labour on large farms owned by the former Russian aristocracy. In
    China the system of rule by the Communist party resembles the way Chinese
    emperors ruled through the mandarin class.
    Such social patterns of value do change in the course of time. The Chinese
    and Russian social patterns of value of 1960 differ from those in 1860 and
    these differ from those in 1760. The way Chinese and Russians motivated
    their behaviour in 1960 probably differed more from the way they did in 1860
    than the way they did in 1860 differed from the way they did in 1760. The
    change in their patterns of behaviour between 1860 and 1960 probably wasn't
    much bigger (if at all) than between 1760 and 1860, however. A case can even
    be made that the social level changes between 1760 and 1860 (when both areas
    were being included in the world economy) were markedly bigger than those
    between 1860 and 1960 (when they were 'closing up' again in economic terms).

    You concluded with:
    'I think it's a combination of the IDEAL [of freedom] and the HABIT [of
    behaving independently and of accepting
    others as 'belonging' when they behave independently] [that contributes to
    holding the USA together]. But without an IDEAL as a catalyst, no new habits
    would ever form, and societies such as the Zuni or Iraq could never change.'

    I agree that BOTH intellectual patterns of value that motivate people to
    hold societies together by aligning their actions (like the ideal of
    freedom) AND social patterns of value (habitual patterns of behaviour) that
    actually hold together societies (like independence and accepting diversity)
    contribute. 'Conservative' ideals do help to prevent substitution of new
    habitual patterns of behaviour for old ones.
    I can rephrase the point I tried to make into: intellectual patterns of
    value (your 'social values'?!) only contribute to holding together societies
    INDIRECTLY and that contribution is limited to fending off the influence of
    other ('progressive' or more dynamic) intellectual patterns of value (that
    catalyze the change of social patterns of value).

    Using my definitions of biological, social and intellectual patterns of
    value these 'conservative' intellectual patterns of value have no role
    whatsoever in preventing the disintegration of 'weak' social patterns of
    value and 'falling back' of behaviour on the biological latch. That's where
    I disagree with Pirsig (and until now with you). If for instance marriage
    (the habitual pattern of pairs staying together for most of their lives)
    tends to break down, because its role in socializing children becomes less
    important (when other social patterns of value, like school, take over), no
    amount of (religiously and/or politically motivated) propaganda against
    divorce will stop this trend.

    Returning to your 19 Oct 2003 14:57:52 -0400 e-mail that started my
    involvement in this thread:
    'I find Rorty's theory of truth (what you can get away with) ... socially

    This theory of truth may indeed threaten (what you call) 'social values' (if
    they are indeed the same as what I call 'intellectual patterns of value that
    motivate people to hold societies together'). It may even act as a catalyst
    for renewal of social patterns of value, especially of those social patterns
    of value that are maintained with the contribution of a SOM-based theory of
    truth (subjective views that conform to objective reality). Isn't that what
    we should be after here?
    That doesn't make Rorty's theory of truth (or rather your reproduction of
    it) more 'true' than the conventional (SOM-based) one, but it IS an argument
    for calling it more 'Dynamic'...

    You (19 Oct 2003 09:06:41 -0400) 'consider Rorty and his fellow travelers
    dangerous to a free society because without confidence in the concept of
    truth (and it's companion, logic), the public is disarmed against lies'.
    Shouldn't the idea that something can be a 'lie' (i.e. be inconsistent with
    objective reality) be dropped in a MoQ-based culture? Isn't there an
    alternative way of arming the public against low-quality ideas possible that
    is based in evolutionary thinking?
    "I did not have sex with that woman . . ."
    would then be a lower quality statement than
    "I didn't go as far as vaginal penetration with that woman. I didn't want to
    endanger my marriage. I am sorry that I didn't ask my wife in advance
    whether she would experience what I did (which is none of your business) as
    too threatening for our relation."
    because it expresses more primitive ideas about how men and women should
    deal with each other in intimate relations and how open a president of the
    USA should be about his sexual behaviour to the public.

    With friendly greetings,


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