Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Subjectivism

Why Anti-Racism and Feminism Aren’t as Popular as They Should Be

Our society has serious issues with race and gender. In the United States, there is a huge race gap in median family wealth:

The gender pay gap isn’t as bad as it used to be, but there’s still work to be done:

To varying degrees similar gaps persist in most other rich countries. There are also all sorts of additional non-economic disparities as a result of race and gender norms. People associate different behaviors and attitudes with different races and genders, often unintentionally as a result of internalized norms and learned habits. These race and gender norms and expectations box people in and limit their individuality. These norms are forms of arbitrary and unjust prejudice and stereotyping. These things seem obviously oppressive and objectionable in principle. Yet when we survey people about their attitudes toward the political movements that exist to oppose these systems of oppression, we find a remarkable amount of hostility. During the Ferguson protests, 53% of American adults believed that most of the protesters were just criminals taking advantage of the situation while only 31% believed the protests resulted from legitimate outrage over the conditions there. When asked to choose between “Black Lives Matter” and the counter-slogan “All Lives Matter”, Americans go with the latter by an 11% to 78% margin. Only 27% of Americans think new laws are needed to address racial discrimination:

Only 20% of Americans consider themselves feminists (including 23% of women and 16% of men). Despite this, 82% say that men and women should be “social, political, and economic equals”. Given that this is the goal of the feminist movement, this cognitive dissonance is troubling. Why are so many people who agree in principle with the goals of the anti-racism and feminist movements declining to support these movements? I have a theory.

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How to be a Good Person Without God

In many western societies, religion seems to be losing influence, particularly among young people. Many religious people argue that this threatens society’s moral frameworks. Without God, on what basis do we distinguish the good from the bad? Secularists often scoff at this question, resenting the implication that only the religious can be moral. And yet, many secularists are also moral subjectivists, who claim not to believe in any absolute sense of right and wrong, arguing that morality is culturally relative or a matter of individual taste. This does seem to imply that as religion weakens, the intellectual foundation of many of our substantive moral beliefs is being eroded, and that to the extent that secularists remain good people, it is often due to socialization and intellectual inertia rather than some truly substantive alternative. But it doesn’t have to be this way–there are excellent secular moral theories that do offer compelling objective alternatives to religious morality.

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Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

“Why do bad things happen to good people?” This is one of those questions that is often asked but rarely comprehensively answered or seriously thought about. I’d like to take a stab at it.

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Gaslighting Philosophers

Perhaps you remember last year when American football player Manti Te’o was catfished. An acquaintance of Te’o pretended to be a girl named Lennay Kekua, and Te’o became convinced that he was in an online long-distance relationship with this individual. When Kekua “died of cancer”, Te’o was devastated, and his devastation grew larger still when he discovered that the entire relationship was a lie, that Kekua was not a real person at all. Catfishing happens when the perpetrator manipulates over the course of an extended period of time a victim’s sense of reality to make the victim believe he is in a relationship with a non-existent person. It is a form of gaslighting, a devious strategy by which perpetrators systematically undermine victims’ notions of reality by systematically manipulating them into mistrusting their own senses and experience. My claim today is that there are philosophers who are engaged in gaslighting on a grand scale–those who believe that truth is a social construct.

 

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How Babies Learn Philosophy

Often, when subjectivists and nihilists claim that human beings construct their own conceptions of morality, they ignore the manner in which those constructions arise in the first place. How do people develop their moral beliefs? I argue that we acquire our initial beliefs through a process of social learning that all babies in all times and social contexts participate in. This kind of learning implies an inherent belief in the primacy of the objective, of the external world, and is inconsistent with the subjectivist view.

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