Agnes Callard asks in the Boston Review-
Why are people more inclined to hold genetics responsible for (lack of) mental health than for (lack of) academic or intellectual achievement?
By definition, lack of mental health aint something you choose (though it may be the result of your choices). But sensible people don't want 'academic or intellectual achievement' because the thing is shit. Actual achievement, on the other hand, is something we want. I'd like to be rich, not a Professor of Chrematistics. I'd like to be smart, not a fucking academic. Speaking generally, we want to minimize what has to be 'achieved' relative to the yield in terms of utility or Social Welfare. Why? The former is costly. The latter is beneficial. As a Society we are better off working out ways such that less has to be 'achieved' relative to the desired outcome. It would be quite an achievement for me to achieve physical fitness. If some Scientist invents a type of nanobot which could be injected into me so that I become physically fit without any effort, then- ceteris paribus- Society is better off.
The reason genetics is implicated in mental illness or physical disability is because reproductive success is impacted. Only if kin gain an equal or greater benefit will the gene responsible maintain itself in the population. By contrast 'academic or intellectual achievement' may track stupid shibboleths specific to a culture but which are unlikely to be related to reproductive fitness or survival value.
Callard takes a different view-
I think this is less puzzling than deBoer and Alexander contend. There is a significant difference between these two cases. It is a scientific truth that a person’s life outcomes are, in a great variety of ways, a function of her genetic endowment (not just in matters of intelligence, however defined, but in many other behavioral and physical features, too).
This is not a scientific truth. It is not even a Scientific hypothesis. If it were we'd know, or have a pretty good idea, what changes to 'genetic endowment' to make- by changing DNA- such that our son will be a great mathematician whereas our daughter will be a beautiful ballet dancer. This is not to say that Scientific progress towards finding a Structural Causal Model for this is not being made. Once it is up and working, then ethical decisions will have to be made. Till then, mere blathershites exercise themselves over such matters so as to delude themselves that they have 'achieved' something.
Nonetheless, the science of genetics cannot tell us what the ethical consequences of this truth are—
Truths have no 'ethical consequences' whatsoever unless it really is true that Imperative Statements can be reduced to Alethic Statements by some mechanism and thus no fact/value distinction obtains. This may be true of a deterministic or occassionalist Universe. It can't be true for a species which has always faced a radically uncertain fitness landscape.
and more specifically, science cannot tell us that the ethical consequences of this fact are uniform for all traits.
Nor can anything else. Ethical consequences are in the eye of the beholder but that eye sees whatever it likes.
So even if, from a genetic point of view, mental health and intelligence were equally heritable,
this can't be the case. Mental illness represents an extreme dysfunction independent of the incentive system. Intelligence, however, is a function of non-biological incentive/opportunity matrices of an idiographic sort.
that wouldn’t entail that our ethical responses to those facts should be the same. And in fact they arguably should not be.
Our ethical responses should not be stupid unless we are actually being paid to be stupid virtue-signaling cunts and wouldn't be able to pay our bills any other way. In this particular case, it suffices to say 'go fuck yourself you worthless cretins who can neither make me smarter nor cure me of my congenital Onanism'.
Questions of mental health, weight regulation, or substance abuse are normatively bipartite: the relevant outcomes are either normal or abnormal.
Nonsense! They are all on a number of spectrums. I may be normal weight for my height and age and occupation as a Mall Santa but this is not my ideal weight as a Beyonce impersonator.
Achievement, by contrast, is normatively tripartite: it can be subnormal, normal, or supernormal.
It can be anything you like. Fucking retarded. Iyer level retarded. Really really shitty. Retarded by Iyengar standards. Boringly average. Piquantly average. Ironically mediocre. Actually not shitty at all. Genuine. Fucking Aces. Iyengar level Aces.
In the bipartite cases, we are faced only with the need to avoid blaming people for the subnormal condition,
why blame people for anything other than their causing you harm of some sort?
whereas in the tripartite cases we want to avoid blaming for subnormality and, in addition, we want to be able to credit and praise supernormality.
No we don't. I get my face slapped when I seek to shower credit and praise on peeps with super-normal boobage.
In the bipartite cases, we get everything we want by ascribing outcomes to genetics—but doing so in the tripartite cases would thwart one of our (ethical) goals.
It is not ethical to have such goals. What we want is a Structural Causal Model such that genetics can be altered to improve outcomes. That's all that matters.
Let me illustrate with the case of athletics. Everyone knows that athletic achievement has a strong hereditary component, yet it is clear that we do not think of it as “entirely due to genes” or even “due to genes plus luck.”
It has to do with available incentives. When Jews were poor refugees, corralled into crime ridden ghettos, there were plenty of Jewish prize-fighters and baseball players and so on. As they moved into the suburbs, Jews would joke about their lack of athleticism- a caste mark of lower middle class status. With prosperity, Jews might excel at sports if that is what they wanted to do. But wealth means that one's time has a high opportunity cost. We would expect the rich to be talented amateurs in a variety of elite sports but to disdain professional status.
Of course, it may be that Jewish women's traditional preference for erudite grooms has pushed up Jewish academic performance and intellectual achievements. This is the problem when we speak of genetics. Since reproductive strategies are likely to have a genetic basis, the proper way to judge outcomes is by looking at joint reproductive success of the kin of the 'mentally ill' or 'super-normal' individual.
Athletic stars serve as inspirational figures for young people who take them to represent the possibility of making something great of oneself.
Nonsense! They offer entertainment value as well as a sort of 'participation mystique'- i.e. the vicarious taste of triumphs far beyond one's capacity. It is a different matter that aspiring athletes are inspired by a particular star but then aspiring cost and management accountants are inspired by those who risen high in that line of work.
Nature might give you height or quick reflexes, but athletic excellence also requires years of concerted effort.
The effort is not what concerns us. It is the 'intestinal fortitude' that is displayed under intensely competitive conditions. It is that element of drama which makes spectator sports so enthralling and addictive.
By dint of this effort, we think of the stars as having earned their accomplishments.
No we don't. We understand that the dramatic nature of the competition in which they are involved leads to a disproportionate amount of public interest which in turn means that advertisers throw money at the stars. We have an instinctive understanding of the relevant 'Power' or 'Pareto' Law which determines earning in such fields. We know that movie stars and sports stars and so forth gain disproportionate 'economic rent' because part of what makes them celebrities is the belief that they earn fabulous sums. In other words, inflated remuneration is part of their productive function. We gain more utility from seeing a footballer who earns millions than an equally agile youngster who hasn't yet been signed.
There is no tension between thinking that most people are not cut out for athletic accomplishment and thinking that the ones who succeed do so on the strength of their efforts.
But 'athletic accomplishment' is merely a matter of public taste which itself is a product of a well oiled publicity machine's incessant myth making. It is not something objective about the world. There is great tension between thinking ordinary people understand that show business works differently from the bread and butter sort and pretending that people are cretins who don't understand that remuneration works differently in the entertainment industry- which includes sports and even some so called 'public intellectuals' who prattle puerile shite of Callard's sort so we can laugh at their imbecility. The reason for this is that inflated remuneration is itself what adds value and endows 'celebrity status'.
To recognize and admire and credit the winners, you don’t need to think that an athletic failure—myself included—is to be blamed for insufficient effort. Kindness to athletic losers doesn’t need to be bought at the price of indifference to athletic winners.
But athletics of the sort where admiration is involved is not utilitarian at all. We are not kind to athletes who fuck up. We make fun of them even if we ourselves are as utterly unathletic.
We have some say in how our lives go, and yet our lives are also subjected to forces outside our control. Which part of this story do we emphasize?
Why bother telling stories? Or, if forced to do so, why not throw in episodes featuring acts of fellatio performed on you by Margaret Thatcher or Angela Merkel? Personally, I find that only such portions of my narrative command attention when, weeping into my whiskey, I seek to regale my fellow drunken bums with the tragic tale of my decline and fall as a Cost and Management trainee Accountant.
The question of who we praise and who we blame is not a scientific question, but an ethical one;
No. It is merely a question of tastes & preferences or mental pathology.
there is no way to answer it except by deliberating seriously about the kind of society we want to live in.
Nobody seriously debates utterly inutile shite. What is the point in our all agreeing that we want to live in a society where everybody is nice and naughtiness is smacked on the bum and sent to bed without any supper?
In that spirit, I want to propose a new candidate for what the “the compassionate, sympathetic, progressive position” should look like.
Please say it should look like it stuck its head up its arse purely in the spirit of scientific inquiry.
First, we should incline toward crediting people for their achievements as being genuinely their own, the justly earned fruits of hard work and diligence, deserving of pride and a sense of accomplishment.
Why? What good would it do? Would it not be better to just be nice to people instead of crediting or debiting them as if that is what we are paid to do?
Second, we should incline toward explaining away failures on the basis of genes, socioeconomic obstacles, bad luck, and so on—things beyond their control—in such a way to make clear that the attitude called for in response to failure is sympathy and readiness to assist.
Why not just be sympathetic and ready to assist without making it conditional on our interlocutor being an abject loser who, we tell her, has terrible genes and comes from a rotten section of society. Also she smells bad and when she smiles, strong men back away in horror. This isn't her fault at all. God hates her. She never had a chance. We sympathize and are ready to assist her- though this readiness will never turn into actual assistance- because we are truly wonderful beings- even to a worthless sack of shit like her.
The successful should be proud of themselves, and when they see others fail, they should think: there but for the grace of God go I.
No. The successful should get on with doing useful stuff. They needn't be proud of themselves. When they another fail, they are welcome to help that person do better without being an almighty dick about it.
People rarely, if ever, deserve to fail,
unless they actually do fail in a fair test- the only context where 'fail' is meaningful- in which case there is something they could consciously have done differently to alter the outcome. I deserved to fail my driving test because I knew it was probably a bad idea to get drunk just before it commenced.
but people typically deserve their successes.
only if success correlates to their doing the right thing. I didn't deserve to get crowned Beyonce impersonator of the year because I didn't know who Beyonce was. Anyway, Daddy- who happened to be Judging the contest- has a history of insinuating that I am effeminate and probably make my living in London as some crapulous type of catamite.
The fact is, Tyche- Luck- is something we congratulate a person for having because it is something we want for ourselves. But Luck is never deserved.
To prove that this asymmetry is coherent, consider the ethos among a group of striving friends. When one of my academic friends faces a professional setback—a paper rejection, a fruitless job search, being denied tenure—the rest of us respond with sympathy and compassion.
Because you want to stay friends. The question is how long will you keep up this sympathy and compassion after you gain tenure and she ends up as a cocktail waitress.
We do not say, “This was your fault for not working hard enough.”
But ought to do so, if that is the truth.
Except under truly extraordinary circumstances, we do not take ourselves to be in the business of blaming, faulting, and condemning our friends.
Precisely because they are friends. But such friendships peter out.
But when that same person achieves some triumph, we would typically congratulate her for the fruits of her efforts.
Unless we have a penis in which case it is de rigueur to say 'I suppose it's true what they say, lucky at professional advancement, unlucky in having a tiny dick.'
We credit her for her accomplishments without blaming her for her failures.
Till she tells us to fuck off. We aint foolin nobody.
One should not assume that this situation must boil down either to amiable exaggeration of someone’s role in her triumphs or to well-meant but deceptive downplaying of her responsibility for her failures. There need be no white lies involved in our response, because it is ethically correct to respond asymmetrically to the role of chance in success and failure. The simple fact is that you can praise a student for his A without blaming him for his C. And this is, in fact, usually how you should act.
No. Telling students to get the fuck out of Collidge and start earning already is, almost always, the ethical thing to do.
Kindness to athletic losers doesn’t need to be bought at the price of indifference to athletic winners.
Give both a blow job by all means- if that's what you like doing. If it isn't why not get on with your own life?
I believe we should credit all achievements, including those of the privileged: the talents of the rich do not magically develop themselves.
Or we could get out of the crediting and debiting business- unless paid good money to remain.
But we should also recognize that when people had to overcome substantial obstacles to get where they are, they objectively achieved more, and deserve to be even prouder of themselves.
Why? Will our noses fall off if we don't? The fact is most people don't like being told they have overcome substantial obstacles to get where they are. Rather, they are flattered by the suggestion that they were born with superior endowments. This was one thing the Royal Family were actually quite good at. When confronted with some ghastly darkie who had turfed them out of one of their Colonial possessions, they simply pretended he too was some sort of retarded regal cousin rather than a Mission School educated, Solicitor's clerk who had schemed and lied and cheated his way to the top.
Let me conclude by bringing these philosophical reflections on achievement to bear on our socioeconomic system for distributing material rewards and social status—for it is at this edifice that Sandel’s and deBoer’s objections are ultimately directed. The argument I have given offers a way of separating our answer to the question of how we should distribute pluses such as riches, honors, fame, and recognition from our answer to the question of how we should distribute minuses such as poverty, shame, suffering, and precarity.
Does Callard really think cretins like her distribute 'pluses' or 'minuses' to any save their own equally retarded students? But even there, is it not the case that one or two retards will get some sort of return on their investment while the rest will have been shamelessly swindled?
Ordinary people understand that a Society on the brink of collapse will still distribute 'pluses'. The smart play is to refuse them. Poverty and Suffering, though, are distributed mainly through 'Games against Nature'. Having a better Structural Model of the underlying Economic process is what generates 'pluses'. Callard type shite, however, is productive only of 'minuses'. Growth is worth pursuing. Equity is a chimera which kills the golden goose of its own mixed metaphors. Let Agnes Callard or Magnus Mallard quest its notional fewmets. After all, that's what they get paid to do.
You can think that everyone deserves a decent life and also think that some people deserve more than that, in virtue of what they have achieved.
In which case your notion of living a 'decent life' involves, to a greater or lesser extent, accepting a deferential Society. At the margin, this is indecent unless a reflexive equilibrium of a certain type obtains. But, if we evolved by Natural Selection, this can't be the case. Thus Callard's assertion is either 'cheap talk' or a mischievous type of stupidity.
Depriving someone of the basics needed to live a decent life is a form of punishment,
No it isn't. A punishment is something which it is costly to inflict.
and arguably no one—except perhaps one guilty of grievous wrongdoing—deserves that.
but, by the same argument, no one deserves not to be able to levitate, or live forever, or create a Universe more to their liking.
You can think that everyone deserves a decent life and also think that some people deserve more than that, in virtue of what they have achieved.
Why stop there? Why not also believe everybody deserves to get beejays from everybody else in Imaginationland?
And—this is what comes of accepting the asymmetry I’ve been arguing for—you can think that person A deserves material or social rewards for achievements that person B had no chance to produce (say, for genetic reasons, or due to sexism, or pure bad luck).
while also thinking that Mother Theresa, quite deservedly, is engaging in 69 with Mahatma Gandhi and every virtue signalling blathershite deserves to watch nothing else for all time.
The fact that chance played a role in A’s success does not invalidate our rewarding him for it.
Why the fuck reward anybody unless that is what you are paid to do? It is one thing when as a Federal Boob Inspector, wearing the official t-shirt, I get my face slapped when I attempt to reward young ladies, but it is quite another when the FBI fails to pay me for my arduous services.
But the fact that we can and should reward A does not entail that we are permitted to punish B for her lack of success.
Unless that is what we are paid to do.
B deserves a decent life, even if she never earned the rewards we (justifiably) give only to A.
B deserves to watch Mahatma Gandhi go down on Mother Theresa- at least, if that is an essential component of her living a decent life.
Because deBoer and Sandel take aim at the legitimacy of dipping below decency,
without showing how the thing could be done- they are virtue signalling blathershites, not decent thinkers at all
they do not give any independent argument concerning the desert of those in the upper half of the distribution of outcomes—but that is really where meritocracy resides.
No it doesn't. Under Knightian Uncertainty, Infomation asymmetry etc, Merit will always be mixed up with Luck. No canonical factorization can exist.
Meritocracy is about rewarding success, not punishing failure.
Nonsense! Meritocracy is about position of power being allocated according to credentialized metrics of merit. But, this is an ideographic matter subject to hysteresis. It is not ergodic. It has no canonical representation.
Consider the famous “motivational” speech from the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross:
Why? The enterprise was the real estate equivalent of a Boiler Room. A whistle blower could have had the place shut down. Its promoters could have faced heavy fines or even jail time for unfair business practices.
We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is, you’re fired.
Why do we watch movies about shady business practices? The answer is that it is the competitive element which makes the the thing a thymotic agon. It is dramatic. We all know that the way to get rich is to work hard at boring shit. But, for entertainment, we watch movies about intensely competitive criminal enterprises which actually have a negative real return. The same thing happens in Callard's branch of Academia. She herself will be a 'super-star' and do well while a lot of people who were smarter than her end up taking a big loss on their time in that shite branch of Studies. But, if Callard had done boring but useful stuff she would now already be a lot richer than she will end up being. Of course, this would not be the case if she weren't a sociopath. But she is and so she should have set up a hedge fund or produced 'foamware' or been a patent troll or something of that sort.
All of us feel a jolt between second and third prize.
No we don't. The thing only matters in what is basically an 'entertainment' industry. Gangsters can get rich if they stop playing the role of gangsters and act just like Cost and Management Accountants who don't give a sit who gets first prize for Double Entry this year.
That is the moment when “meritocracy” gets twisted and deformed into something punitive and vile.
Yes, yes. We know. Everybody should get a prize just for participating. Back in 1992, my Mummy packed me some chutney sandwiches and gave me a big bottle of orange squash. I put on the Chelsea strip she had bought me from a market stall. Then I went to the football field nearest me- Stamford Bridge, as it happens- and asked to play for the Home Team. I was willing to share my chutney sandwiches and Orange squash. Also, I had brought along my own ball- albeit one smaller than regulation size and made of plastic.
Sadly, 'meritocracy' had been twisted into something punitive vile. I was not allowed to play. That's how come I'm not now married to Posh Spice.
If our system of distributing meritocratic rewards to achievers depends on distributing degrading punishments to non-achievers,
Like me being brutally manhandled and thrown out of Chelsea Football Ground even though I volunteered to let the custodial staff there suck my cock.
that is a strike against our meritocracy,
A 'meritocracy' where Callard is considered smart is no meritocracy at all.
not against meritocracy itself. Insofar as meritocracy ends up not only determining the extremes of success
But, it can't do that. Nor can Aristocracy or Democracy or Theocracy. Why pretend otherwise? Forms of Government or Resource Allocation or principles for determining Hierarchical positions do not, can not, actually determine outcomes any more than Madoff's Ponzi scheme actually made his investors very comfortably off in all perpetuity.
but also condemning non-achievers as worthless, that is a corruption of meritocracy, to be condemned alongside better-recognized corruptions such as racism and sexism.
Merit is a criteria for distinguishing worthless types of achievement- e.g my arduous poetastering lucubrations- from, it may be, entirely effortless types of achievement. A lady named Mary Elizabeth Frye- as I found out by Googling- wrote the poem that comforted me when I attended the funeral service of my neighbor. The Academy may not recognize Frye as having merit as a poet. But she does. The Academy doesn't.
This is why I say that Sandel and deBoer have conflated an accidental imperfection of one (punitive) mode of meritocracy with a critique of meritocracy itself.
Conflation is the only way to critique something which can't exist. If an accident is imperfect the essence can't be perfect nor can the thing have a canonical- or 'intensional'- representation. Thus what Callard says is gibberish.
Of course the ethics of success is full of knotty problems.
No. Success is Alexander to every Mussar or Gordian knot. Isonomia, or that reciprocity by which the material needs of alterity constitute ipseity's spiritual needs, prevails by Success's sword stroke. But Alexander didn't become Great by reason of pluses or minuses awarded him by Aristotle.
It is not easy to draw the line between what is given only on the grounds of talent and effort, on the one hand, and what belongs to all, regardless of achievement, on the other.
Not easy for Callard- sure. But easy enough for Accountants or Economists- at least in the short run. The thing is actually less complicated than plumbing- which is why a good plumber has a higher hourly rate.
The question “how much is enough for a decent life?” is difficult to answer,
Fuck off! Precisely because we are human beings, we are hardwired to quickly reach consensus on such matters.
and on top of the intrinsic difficulty, the answer shifts over time.
Again, this is a problem we are fucking genetically hardwired to solve quickly and heuristically. However, the canonical representation of the solution is 'regret minimizing' and coarse grained and pretty much 'anything goes'. But Arrow-Debreu is worse in that respect.
Education is, and perhaps will always be, a battleground, and one way to interpret Sandel and deBoer’s proposed policy interventions is to see them as
stupid virtue signalling blathershites. There is no other rational way to see those ignorant, stupid, careerist, cunts.
disagreeing over where to draw the line in that arena. DeBoer’s suggestion that we become willing to exempt some twelve-year-olds from further schooling is a way of drawing the line relatively low—high school is already “extra”—whereas Sandel’s suggestion of lottery-based college admissions draws the line high: even college education should not be allocated on the basis of talent, promise, or achievement.
So, these cunts propose shite of a sort which advertises nothing but their own stupidity and political irrelevance.
Constructing a non-punitive meritocracy is not at all straightforward
Yet it happens spontaneously, absent market failure, in every utile profession or branch of industry. Incentive Compatible Mechanism design can always establish public signals for improved correlated equilibria. If some worthless cunts want to speak of this as 'meritocracy' why object? They have no power or influence.
—any more than constructing a non-racist or non-sexist meritocracy, or one that is not biased in favor of the rich. But it is a worthy project
Just like building a perpetual motion machine.
because a non-punitive meritocracy holds out the prospect of combining—not merely in words, but in reality—our desire for cooperative communitarian harmony with our commitment to individual excellence and achievement.
not to mention our ardour for Niceness as opposed to Naughtiness
Sandel and deBoer urge us to sacrifice the latter at the altar of the former.
Coz sacrificing first born babies at the altar of Ba'al was such a swell idea
But that wouldn’t be necessary if we could achieve both goals. A kinder, more compassionate, more progressive—which is to say, less punitive—meritocracy would give us the best of all worlds.
only if all who deserve to view Mother Theresa suck off Mahatma Gandhi are enabled to do so as part of a minimal provision for living a decent life.
For both authors the fundamental question is not about how to tinker with our current system at the margins but what kind of ideal we should set our sights on—even if it is not necessarily immediately realizable. DeBoer’s book ends with a panegyric description of a post-revolutionary Marxist “utopia” of which he acknowledges: “Some will, no doubt, call this fantasy. They will say that such a society cannot exist.” But this vision is predicated on a mistake: he assumes that we have to give up on meritocratic rewards in order to free ourselves from the scourge of meritocratic punishment. I say, as long as we’re dreaming, let’s dream bigger.
Such that Mahatma Gandhi has such a ginormous cock that only Mother Theresa has the boobage to adequately titty-wank him.
This is the problem with masturbatory Political Philosopy. Whatever boring shite it strokes itself off to can always be judiciously augmented by a properly funded program of academic research on Pornhub.