Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Human Nature

Sex, Adolescence, and the Power of Desire

One of the most common arguments used to advance the cause of gay rights is the thought that individuals do not choose their own sexualities. Some people are naturally disposed to be gay, some to be straight, some somewhere in between. The argument goes that we ought not to blame individuals for behaviors that arise from desires they do not choose, at least insofar as those desires do not result in harm being done to others (the desire in pedophiles to have sex with children also arises naturally, but pedophilia harms children, while homosexuality is not in and of itself harmful). I’m not here today to contest this argument–I broadly agree with it–I’m here to explore the possibility that it might have significant moral, legal, and philosophical implications outside the LGBT issue. What other desires arise in the same way the sexual desire does?

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Education Ex Machina

As regular readers know, I’m a frequent critic of political systems. One of my recurrent observations is that the average voter is often ignorant in the extreme, not merely of trivial facts (“who is your local congressman?”) but of important political facts and ideas fall into two broad categories:

  1. Policy Ignorance–ignorance of what a given law or policy does or would do if enacted. Lack of understanding of how policies and laws operate (e.g. Obamacare, immigration reform, austerity, stimulus, default, etc.)
  2. Theory Ignorance–a lack of awareness of how one’s political beliefs fit together, being unaware of contradictions or deliberately ignoring them, critically analyzing one’s own views insufficiently to be epistemically justified in holding them, failing to consider alternatives or resolve the challenges alternative theories pose, etc.

I typically claim that because citizens are ignorant in these ways, they have a tendency to vote counter-productively. They use the vote to pursue mistaken objectives or pursue good objectives in misguided ways. I argue from there that our political system expects more from the average voter than the average voter can give, and is consequently mismatched to the nature of real people–it is too demanding. Among the most frequent responses to this argument is that it’s not the political system that is the problem, but the education system. If we educated people better so that they were not ignorant in these ways, they would vote better and the system would work as designed. Today, I aim to answer this argument.

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Marx and Human Nature

Marxism is not generally my focus on this blog, but given that we’re spending a week on Marx in one of my grad school courses, I hope the reader will allow me to indulge myself in some further thoughts on Marx in addition to those I offered earlier in the week. After this, I’m moving on–there should be no more Marx for a while. I had a new thought today that I didn’t have several days ago, one that identifies a key contradiction in Marx’s work that I previously overlooked.

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Quantum Mechanics and Free Will

As regular readers may know, I am a determinist. I believe that individual agents have no power or ability to self-determine their behavior, and that their behavior is caused by forces over which they have no power. It has been pointed out to me, however, that quantum mechanics calls into question the traditional scientific basis for determinism by arguing that the old classical laws of physics are limited in their power of prediction. Laplace’s demon, the imaginary being that uses infinite information and infinite computing capacity to calculate everything that has ever happened or will ever happen using the physical laws, is not considered viable under modern science. Does this mean anything for my determinism? That’s today’s topic.

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Man of Steel and Genetic Engineering

Earlier this week, I went to see Man of Steel, and wrote about the way I thought it ignored and marginalized interesting and controversial moral debates about whom we have moral duties to. Toward the end of that piece, I noted that I also had thoughts concerning genetic engineering, another issue the film briefly raises, then discards. Today I’d like to pursue that thread further. Having thought about it more, I’m now convinced that the film’s take of genetic engineering is even more knee-jerk and surface level than its attitude toward imperialism.

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