Honor, Dignity and Victimhood

January 20, 2016    By: Jeff G @ 5:19 pm   Category: Ethics,Evolutionary psychology,Mormon Culture/Practices,orthodox,Truth,Universalism

This post that consists of three parts:  First, I will give a brief review of Jonathan Haidt and his publications – this section is optional and can be skipped if you like.  Second, I will summarize “Microaggression and Moral Cultures,” an article by Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning concerning the nature of microaggressions and the emergence of “victimhood” culture – this is the main meat of the post.  Finally, I will use Nietzsche’s master/slave moralities to apply Campbell and Manning’s paper to the differences between victimhood culture and the gospel.

Jonathan Haidt

I’m a big fan of Jonathan Haidt in that I deeply applaud his efforts at building bridges of mutual understanding and communication across political and ideological divides.  (The degree to which he has succeeded in these attempts is another issue.)  This is not to say that I agree with everything he says.  For starters, I think that he limits himself far too much to American ideologies within the very recent past – even by American standards.  It is only within this very limited  scope that one can call the PC left “liberal” and the free-market right “conservative”.  A better way of seeing the political divisions, I suggest, is by acknowledging that 95% of Americans are liberal in some form or another in that they strongly value freedom; it’s just that some of these liberals tend toward the egalitarian direction of socialism while others tend toward the stratified direction of conservatism.

Within this broader scope, one can better appreciate where Haidt himself stands, ideologically speaking: he is a moderate liberal, probably close to John Stuart Mill.  Consequently, whereas at times he claims to have “stepped out of the political game,” and become an impartial observer, at other times it becomes quite obvious that he has done no such thing.  Nothing has made this more clear, I suggest, than his recent efforts at stemming the recent resurgence of political correctness and identity politics.  Within these efforts he still strives to facilitate understanding, but the appearance of neutrality seems to have been left behind.

It is tempting to think that the objections that the PC left have with him largely boil down to the packaging of his ideas, not the content of the ideas themselves.  Unfortunately, the left-wing Marcusians (as Haidth calls them) do not recognize any significant difference between form and content since either one can function as a kind of domination in society.  Thus, whereas Haidt is explicitly aimed at opening a space that is safe for uncensored speech and dialogue, his opponents are centrally concerned with how opening a space that is safe from the domination of uncensored speech and “dialogue”.  These politically motivated objections to Haidt are evidence enough that he is not as politically neutral as he would probably like.

While I would love to unpack the differences between Haidt’s traditional conception of theory and Herbert Marcuse’s critical theory, I will resist the temptation for the time being.  Instead, I will merely point the reader to Traditional and Critical Theory by Max Horkheimer for a decent intro to the theoretical differences at play between Haidt and the leftist intellectuals who object to him.  The point that I want to make in this context is that Haidt’s attempts at building bridges of communication breaks down largely because he does not cast his ideological net wide enough to accommodate the different types of reasoning that are native to non-liberal socialism (and non-liberal conservatism, for that matter).

Microaggression and Moral Cultures

I would now like to briefly summarize a paper which Haidt links to and summarizes at his website: Microaggression and Moral Cultures by Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning .  First, I will discuss two common types of microaggressions and the social contexts in which they are moralized.  Second, I will summarize the historical emergence of three moral cultures that largely correlate with the cultures of conservatism, liberalism and socialism.

Campbell and Manning categorize microaggressions into two types: overstratification and underdiversification.  A microaggression of overstratification is an expression – though rather small and non-threatening in and of itself – of a systemic stratification according to which one “higher” group repeatedly and systematically dominates a “lower” group.  While the individual act itself may not be an obvious case of whites dominating blacks, men dominating women, rich dominating poor, etc., the act is still interpreted as an expression or reminder of the systematic domination of one group over another.  While microaggressions of stratification are cases of one group being positioned beneath others, microaggressions of underdiversification are when a group is systematically excluded from some space.  Put differently, a mere lack of domination is not enough (think ‘separate, but equal’); an active integration of marginalized groups is also necessary.  A space in which a diverse range of underprivileged classes are both well-integrated and free from systemic domination is often called a “safe space.”

While it might be counter-intuitive to some, Campbell and Manning found that complaints of microaggression actually increase as a community becomes less stratified and more diverse.  The more equal a community becomes, the more loudly people will complain about inequalities and the more diverse a community becomes, the more loudly people will complain about infringements upon diversity.  Thus, the most egalitarian and diverse environments in our country – university campuses – are exactly the places where we find the loudest complaints about inequality and a lack of diversity.  The reasoning behind this is somewhat complex and worth exploring in the original paper.  The basic idea is that as a community comes to embody the values in question, the costs of moral indignation decrease while the benefits increase.  In other words, the more a community comes to embody equality, the more incentive a person has within that community to portray themselves (and others) as victims of inequality.

Within their history of moral cultures, Campbell and Manning call communities that have come to incentivize victimization in this way “cultures of victimhood.”  (Again, I really dislike the negative connotations associated with this particular label.)  This culture of victimhood is currently clashing with a moral culture of dignity in the same way that the latter clashed with a moral culture of honor roughly 300 years ago.  A brief discussion of the similarities and differences between these cultures is in order.

A moral culture of honor is one in which social status is attached to a refusal on one’s part to be dominated by anybody else.  One thinks of Aristocrats, knights, Samuraii, the old west, or any other community that approaches Nietzsche’s master morality.  A person within such a society is very sensitive to microaggressions of stratification in their interpersonal relations, but – and this is what sets it apart from victimhood – places full responsibility on the offended individual to avenge such offenses on their own.  Indeed, to not fight back or retaliate in response to a perceived dishonor is considered immoral cowardice.  To advertise one’s victimhood, or even to appeal to legal authorities in some cases, is proof that one has no honor at all.

With the rise of more centralized legal authorities and (especially) political constitutions came cultures of dignity.  Within such cultures, moral worth is not something that must be earned and defended, but is instead something that each person is born with.  Within such a community the “good opinion” of others is not as valuable such that people will often be praised for their “think skin” and tolerance – virtues that have no place within an honor culture.  When a person is offended, they are expected to either let it go and move on or, if the offense is egregious enough, report it to a centralized third party.  These authorities, usually the legal or administrative authorities, will thus negotiate the proper compensation between the involved parties.  The ideal for this culture, then, is to use the legal system as “quickly, quietly and rarely as possible.”

A culture of victimhood combines different elements from the honor and dignity societies in a way that cannot be reduced to either one.  As in the case of the honor culture, people are very sensitive to stratifying acts of domination, but, more like the dignity culture, people will address such offenses through appeals to a third party.  This combination of caring deeply for one’s social status while at the same time seeking to establish and preserve this status through appeals to a third party incentivizes a kind of public self-victimization that is very foreign to both honor and dignity cultures.  Unlike the dignity culture, on the one hand, perceived offenses will not be “tolerated” within a culture of victimhood.  Unlike the honor culture, on the other hand, such offenses are repaired by advertising one’s weak and exploited nature rather than one’s strong and exploitative nature.  Since people depend upon a third party rather than themselves for their moral standing, and since people are no longer willing to quietly tolerate offenses to their moral standing, this places an immense burden upon and corresponding power within the hands of this third party in the form of centralized control or unchecked populism.

The Gospel: A Culture of Honor, Dignity or Victimhood?

My question at this point is this: which of these cultures does the gospel advocate?  I referenced above Nietzsche’s distinction between the master morality of the Aristocrats and the slave morality of the Christians.  While I did equate the culture of honor with master morality, I balked at equating slave morality with the cultures of dignity or victimhood – although there is certainly some overlap.    Both dignity and victimhood cultures are based in the presence of a strong third party that is capable and available to correct offenses, while slave morality based around the immediate absence of such a third party.  Moral status is to be measured and redeemed in heaven, not this mortal life.  Christian morality, as Nietzsche understood it, probably best corresponds to the underprivileged majority within honor cultures.

With the rise of centralized legal authorities, however, I think the gospel adapted quite seamlessly to a dignity culture.  The slave morality ideal of “turning the other cheek” in active toleration was generalized such that pretty much every group could expect to offend and be offended by somebody.  In the case of egregious offenses, the church did and still does make some appeals to legal authorities, but such appeals are indeed, quick, quiet and rare.  Such tendencies of the dignity culture match up pretty well with what the church teaches and expects from the world around it today.

What I absolutely do not find within the gospel is an unqualified condemnation of all forms of domination or an unqualified praise of diversity.  Yes, the scriptures condemn the domination of secular authorities as well as *unrighteous* dominion but consensual subservience to the righteous dominion of the Lord’s prophets is very much a part of the gospel.  Similarly, the church does encourage certain amounts of bounded diversity – something which a victimhood culture would say is not diversity at all.  Yet, one does not find any suggestion that anybody and everybody should be able to join the church without conforming to some standards or another.  Indeed, the scriptures often urge a rather strong isolation from the cultures and false gods of the world – the very opposite of integration.

In the end, I find little support within the gospel for the hypersensitivity to offense that characterize the honor and victimhood cultures.  To be sure, all three cultures had their own ways of righting wrongs.  Masters within the honor culture fought for themselves and their kin while the (Judeo-Christian) slaves sought their status in heaven.  People within the dignity culture universalized and secularized this slave morality in the form of tolerating many offenses, thereby minimizing the importance of status, not withstanding the occasional appeal to third-party arbitration.  Inasmuch as the believer retained their care for moral status, it was largely measured and avenged by God and in His own time.  The victimhood culture, by contrast, abandons the slave morality altogether by seeking to universalize a master morality in which every person’s social status in this life is jealously guarded by mortal men and women within some “third party.”  Such a concern with status and power within this world, however, stands in stark contrast to the gospel of meekness taught by Jesus Christ.

In Nietzschean language, the gospel teaches us all to be slaves within the culture of dignity, not masters within the culture of victimhood.  Our moral status is to be measured in heaven, not jealously guarded within this fleeting life.


  1. D&C 76 describes the Celestial Kingdom this way:

    92 And thus we saw the glory of the celestial, which excels in all things—where God, even the Father, reigns upon his throne forever and ever;

    93 Before whose throne all things bow in humble reverence, and give him glory forever and ever.

    94 They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace;

    95 And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.

    96 And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one.

    Where would you place this description in the cultures above? Shouldn’t we be evolving towards this model?

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 7:40 am

  2. Howard,

    The important part of that passage is that God and God alone makes people equal in power, etc. Thus, it is a case of slave, not master morality. The whole point of slave morality is that we will all become masters in another life and to strive to become masters in this life – even equally so – is in some sense immoral.

    To be sure, the scriptures command people to voluntarily join communities of equality with the full expectation that they will be persecuted by those around them. But even Jesus himself made no efforts at legislating equality or freeing the Jews from Roman domination during his mortal life. Instead, he told his followers to turn the other cheeks and suffer all sorts of persecutions for his name since their reward in heaven would be great.

    This fits well with the slave side of an honor culture and a dignity culture. Not so much with the master side of the honor culture and victimhood culture. (I still hate that name.)

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 8:09 am

  3. Enlightening. If only all bloggernacle posts jealously guarded the kind of thoughtful analysis and conclusions evidenced here, the very powers of ignorance would be shaken forever.

    Well, maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration. Great post.

    Comment by at — January 21, 2016 @ 8:14 am

  4. Two more quick points:

    1- The victimhood culture really picks up on Marx’s assertion that religion is the opium of the masses. This is not to say that such strong leftists necessarily and inevitably lack faith in an afterlife, but the ideas are very well adapted to one another.

    2. I’m perfectly okay with the God leading the church toward a victimhood culture. Perhaps a case could even be made that this is what God is doing today… I simply just don’t see it.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 8:18 am

  5. But even Jesus himself made no efforts at legislating equality or freeing the Jews from Roman domination during his mortal life.

    True but that isn’t an indication that being dominated is some kind of gospel ideal rather it represented a starting point, it was simply the current status and since criticism of the state resulted in Jesus’ crucifixion that would not be a good strategy to begin Christianity with if the goal is for Christianity to survive.

    The gospel is progressive in the sense that we begin in a fallen state but evolve given enough time to an enlightened oneness with God. So I don’t think a fixed model addresses the gospel at all and if we want some idea of what that path looks like we can project a line beginning with where we currently are and extend to to our understanding of what the Celestial Kingdom will be.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 8:31 am

  6. Howard,

    “True but that isn’t an indication that being dominated is some kind of gospel ideal rather it represented a starting point, it was simply the current status and since criticism of the state resulted in Jesus’ crucifixion that would not be a good strategy to begin Christianity with if the goal is for Christianity to survive.”

    None of these take domination as an ideal. And to hear you appeal to practical necessities justifying a toleration of domination seems unlike you.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 8:35 am

  7. Aren’t practical necessities the reason for the 12th Article of Faith? You may have misjudged me as a ideolog. I recognize the practical benefits of organizational hierarchy which is largely limited order. But I think you defend it well beyond the fruit it is capable of producing.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 8:45 am

  8. largely limited to order.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 8:46 am

  9. “I think you defend it well beyond the fruit it is capable of producing.”

    You might be right, but then my arguments in that area aren’t totally “practical” either. I think that’s exactly what offends people.

    I would also lob this same objection against your appeal to practical constraints. At no point did Jesus ever say “If only we were stronger, then we could really show those Romans who’s boss.” In other words, I see your appeal to practical constraints as being VERY ideological in nature – since I see little else to support such an assertion.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 8:56 am

  10. Well we aren’t under the Romans in the church, we’re under LDS leaders and I think pointing the structure toward (D&C 76) equality in power, and in might, and in dominion would be a step toward the Celestial Kingdom and moving closer to the presence of God.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 9:10 am

  11. For example nothing in that scripture says “except women”.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 9:11 am

  12. Howard,

    You make it sound as if a concern for equality and freedom from domination is the primary thing that separates these culture. Not true.

    The main thing that sets the victimhood culture apart from others is their almost totally unconstrained appeals to mortal third parties in order to enforce such things. One can find zero support for this within the scriptures.

    What one does find within the scriptures, however, are endorsements of righteous dominion – something which the victimhood culture utterly rejects as a contradiction in terms.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 9:26 am

  13. Another way of putting it would be to say that victimhood culture is not concerned with freeing people from domination so much as ensuring that all people are equally dominated by the mortal third party. This is not the gospel.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 9:37 am

  14. Why do you criticize appeals to third parties by the underclass? How else can they achieve redress for unrighteous dominion?

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 9:41 am

  15. Reducing any gospel ideal to a legalistic level refines out the ideal itself. This is as true of rote obedience as it is of the attempted application of pure equality. The reason the underclass resorts to ideological equality is that they are otherwise powerless and this seems to provide a logical lever that they can wield in place of real power.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 9:48 am

  16. Read again, Howard.

    “Why do you criticize appeals to third parties by the underclass?”

    It is the *unconstrained* appeals to a third party. Dignity culture allows for such appeals as well…. along with the idea of turning the other cheek.

    “How else can they achieve redress for unrighteous dominion?”

    The scriptures are perfectly clear on this: they won’t find much redress in this life. Such redress is to be found in heaven, not in mortal authorities.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 9:49 am

  17. I agree with your 15. I just don’t think it establishes what you think.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 9:50 am

  18. Well is not finding much redress in this life a gospel ideal? I think not! So it’s a statement of the reality of being a member of the underclass and being dominated and this reality creates a victim mentality.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 10:00 am

  19. So you’ve defined a life of chronic lack of redress for unrighteous dominion, so how should they respond? You’ve defined that they are victims of their circumstance yet you criticize them for acting like this is their plight?!

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 10:09 am

  20. I haven’t criticized anybody. I’ve only pointed out what the scriptures do and do not say. Maybe your beef is with them?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 10:15 am

  21. I meant you are critical in your argument of *unconstrained* appeals to a third party for example instead of turning the other cheek. Turning the other cheek is a Christian ideal, appeals to a third party is human nature.

    You argument seems to be that they should accept their victim situation with more grace and less mermering rather than trying to change it? And even though it is unending? And you seem to have little sympathy for the fact this goes against human nature while in other arguments you seem to fully accept the human nature of LDS leaders. It seems pretty lopsided, you seem to have more affinity and sympathy for the plight of the poor misunderstood privileged class than the under class who exist without redress!

    Also if the situation of the underclass isn’t changed how is the transition to the Celestial Kingdom made? Suddenly serfs take their red seat with the brethren in the CK and automatically know how to behave in this egalitarian theocracy?

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 10:31 am

  22. Well, I’m not directly arguing for people to do anything at all. Instead, my argument was simply that what we find in the scriptures does not match the culture of victimhood at all.

    There are various explanations for why this is. It could be that the gospel adapts itself to each of these cultures rather than favoring one over the others – although I doubt those within the culture of victimhood would like that. “Turn the other cheek” is a pretty decent adaptation within a context in which you yourself are powerless to redeem your own honor and there is no established third party to which you can appeal. The turn that we see in the D&C toward seeking limited amounts of restitution from the state is 1) well adapted to the culture of dignity and 2) a moderate contradiction of the “turn the other cheek” policy. It might be that, one day, the church will follow the culture of victimhood in TOTALLY abandoning “turn the other cheek,” but I have my doubts. To seek for all people to be equally dominated by the third party (regardless of how centralized this third party is) just is to seek for zion to be (equally) dominated by babylon.

    “you seem to have more affinity and sympathy for the plight of the poor misunderstood privileged class than the under class who exist without redress”

    The same could be said of Jesus. Again, the culture of dignity is just as open to the voluntary affinity and sympathy of each individual for the poor… just like Jesus was. What neither Jesus nor the culture of dignity advocate, however, is granting any mortal coalition the power and authority to unilaterally eradicate such suffering.

    If you actually brought scriptures to bear on the subject rather than appealing to some ideological conception of “human nature, or practical arguments about some ill-defined transition to the celestial kingdom, etc. you would be standing on much firmer ground. I simply have not seen you engage “turn the other cheek” “the first shall be last” or the numerous other passages that advocate a pacifism that it quite the opposite of the victimhood culture.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 12:30 pm

  23. Perhaps a better argument in your favor would be to say that appealing to a third party rather than defending one’s own status is itself a form of turning the other cheek. I’m not totally sold on that – especially in the unrestrained sense of the victimhood culture – I could at least imagine future TBM’s saying something along those lines if the church adapts itself to such a culture.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 1:03 pm

  24. Well, Moses provided redress for Zelophehad’s Daughters something we don’t see in the current church, in fact attempting something similar might get you rebuffed or even excommunicated today if you’re persistant about it.

    Scripture is received, written and edited with the bias of the privileged class

    (We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.)

    so when it comes to guidance regarding domination it must be read with an offsetting bias. The fact that the scriptures are silent regarding something that might benefit the underclass isn’t necessarily meaningful.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 1:39 pm

  25. “in fact attempting something similar might get you rebuffed or even excommunicated today if you’re persistant about it.”

    Does it come as a surprise that attempting to act as Moses for the church gets such a response?

    “when it comes to guidance regarding domination [scripture] must be read with an offsetting bias”

    Whaaaat? Where do we find that revelation? It sounds like you’re just making things up here.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 2:14 pm

  26. Making things up?

    The privileged class has no bias and if they did it wouldn’t be used against the underclass?

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 2:20 pm

  27. A rhetorical question does not count as support for an assertion. Where in all of revelation does it ever say that we need to “cancel out” biases by assuming the opposite?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 2:29 pm

  28. You seem incapable of applying I laid out in 26 to this discussion.

    Either the privileged class has bias (logical and highly probable) or it does not (illogical and highly improbable) and the D&C warns us that almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. It is the privileged class that writes scripture not the underclass. Therefore regarding the issue of the privileged class’ domination over the underclass and its resulting tensions we can reasonably expect this bias to creep into the law.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 2:38 pm

  29. You seem incapable of applying the logic I laid out in 26 to this discussion.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 2:38 pm

  30. Perhaps a better approach would be to back up a bit. Let’s see how far you agree with me before you go in a different direction:

    1. Do you agree with the taxonomy provided by Campbell and Manning in which the three cultures are classified according to the importance of offense and the means of redressing such?
    2. Do you agree with my use of Nietzsche to carve up the honor culture into masters and slaves?
    3. Do you agree that dignity culture is basically a universalized version of slave morality and victimhood culture as a universalized version of master morality?
    4. Do you agree that “turn the other cheek” is an expression of slave morality and thus adapted to honor and (to a lesser extent) dignity cultures?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 2:41 pm

  31. Re 29, I simply do not find any mention of bias in the scriptures at all. Nor do I find any scriptural evidence that any and all social inequalities/domination/privilege are, by definition, evils which must be remedied. Indeed, they insist that some inequalities are very righteous indeed.

    This is why I am accusing you of making it up. You are trying to import your secular ideology into the scriptures in order to work your way around inconvenient teachings. I’m okay with a prophet telling us to do this, but you are no prophet.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 2:46 pm

  32. Generally the sociological study of culture is biased toward collective rights (and thereby indirectly accrues power to the privileged class) rather than individual rights. You must get into psychology to understand individual motivation and desire. It can’t be assumed that the historical existence of a privileged vs an underclass has clear benefit for the majority, rather it has clear benefit for the privileged, if you doubt that take a look at the wildly uneven global distribution of wealth that exists today and the rapidly disappearing muddle class yet some organization is required to prevent anarchy. Also the very concept of honor culture is very psychologically immature. So rather than a disagreement about your specific categories my feeling is that your measuring instrument; the study of culture is just too blunt and too biased by a human history motivated by greed to mean much with regard to the gospel and what God seeks to create via the gospel. You’re assuming human nature is largely incapable of changing yet we know it must change radically to become Christlike and we know that when many act Christlike together in one tribe that tribe with have little in common with past structures.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 3:13 pm

  33. You don’t find any mention of bias in the same scriptures that were written by the privileged class for the privileged class? Really? Jimmy Christmas Jeff I’m shocked!

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 3:18 pm

  34. Isn’t this exactly what every conspiracy theorist says? “The very fact that there is no evidence for the conspiracy proves both its existence and power!”

    I’m not saying that your assumptions cannot produce largely consistent results. Such assumptions not only can, but have produced such results. Socialism, critical theory and victimhood culture are not pure fabrications by any stretch.

    Where I disagree in when you attempt to import these assumptions into the gospel and pretend that they are part and parcel even though no prophet have ever taught this. You might be helping citizens be more aware of what’s going on around them, but you aren’t doing church members any favors when you willfully conflate your own personal social theories with the gospel.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 3:38 pm

  35. Well, it sounds very LDS to me Jeff: don’t think for yourself, the thinking has already been done by others.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 3:41 pm

  36. Again, you are assuming that being led by somebody else’s revelation is a bad thing.

    Will you at least acknowledge that your own biases against any and all types of asymmetrical power relations – biases which you take to be non-negotiable – lead your arguments to completely beg the question against those members who do not share that same assumptions/biases?

    Consider: If a person considers the prophet/disciple relationship to be a case of righteous dominion – a morally praiseworthy asymmetry in power – then the fact that no prophet has ever spoken of bias, privilege, etc. becomes very relevant. Isn’t this a consistent position that you consistently fail to engage on its own terms?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 4:04 pm

  37. Jeff,
    I’m not opposed to all types of asymmetrical power relations, I enjoy one of those with God!

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 4:22 pm

  38. Fine, but you can still answer the question with that caveat in mind.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 4:33 pm

  39. Sure. All mortal human beings have biases and blind spots, that includes you and it includes me. Men are not God and we shouldn’t treat any of them as if they are, we should be smart enough to consider their biases anytime important issues are in play.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 4:37 pm

  40. So just to be clear, you admit that your arguments beg the question to most TBMs who accept the asymmetries of the prophet/disciple relationship?

    To be clear, the issue isn’t whether or not you’re biased differently than these TBMs. Of course you are. The issue is whether your biases lead you to ground your arguments in unshared assumptions such that you almost completely fail to engage such TBMs.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 4:47 pm

  41. No. The issue is an awareness that bias even exists (or not) and an awareness of that bias in action (or not).

    In other words is the TBM awake or asleep? Some are quite awake and can easily enter and participate in this discussion, others have no clue and still others are willfully ignorant to avoid their own cognitive dissonance, in other words their willful ignorance is a psychological defense. There may be other variations as well.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 4:56 pm

  42. Howard,

    It was my OP and my question that you are supposed to be responding to. I’ll decide what the issue is that they are addressing.

    Some TBMs are wide awake and still insist that an interpretive strategy must be authoritatively revealed by a prophet in order for it to have moral purchase upon us. Do you admit that your arguments against privilege/bias have no basis in authoritative revelation (you already admitted this in 28, 32 and 33) and thus totally beg the question against such people (you have not admitted this)?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 5:04 pm

  43. Well even a clear revelation still includes a lot of interruption thus multipal first visions for example. So I think bias is always present. The question is how much difference do the version differences make compared to the main message itself?

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 6:00 pm

  44. To repeat (yet again): Do you admit that your arguments against privilege/bias have no basis in authoritative revelation and thus totally beg the question against such people?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 6:15 pm

  45. Denial and lack of awareness causes their inability or lack of desire to engage in these discussions. I could engage them by tailoring the discussion to pass through their filter but what’s the point when their denial is so high? I’ll talk to the few who can engage, the others can follow along if they like, it’s a consciousness raising exercise. Pollyanna denial is denial none the less.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 6:18 pm

  46. I don’t know. Authoritative revelation isn’t a term I would use. Please define it.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 6:19 pm

  47. Oh come on! You should know exactly what I’m talking about by now. If the tables were turned you would have accused me of dodging so many times by now.

    Let me break it down. By “authoritative” I mean explicitly found within scriptures, general conference talks or other official publications from the church.

    In the current context, you are assuming all sorts of values and moral imperatives that cannot be found in such authoritative sources. (Examples of this include doing away with all asymmetries of power/privilege between mortals, actively assuming and thus compensating for bias in the scriptures, not turning the other cheek, etc.) To many TBMs, this just means that those values and moral imperatives are the reasoning of men and, at best, optional and non-binding. Thus, all of your arguments that are based in such non-authoritative values and moral imperatives carry no moral weight with such people.

    Do you agree?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 6:33 pm

  48. Well “authoritative” carries very little if any meaning for me aside from being a modifying word that attempts to add creditability to something that should be able to compleatly stand on it’s own if it is truly from God!

    How are scriptures are both “authoritative” and living at the same time? Aren’t we to engage the spirit while reading in order to interpret them? Also the spirit helps many to interpret non-scriptual things in their lives does that make those things “authoritative”?

    There’s just no there there with “authoritative” unless you can actually explain it’s substance.

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 6:50 pm

  49. That is the 6th time you’ve dodged the question. Again, do you acknowledge that you’re begging the question against those who do not accept your premises?. I don’t care why they don’t accept them. The fact is that they don’t. And since you are arguing from unshared premises, your argument begs the question. Do you agree?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 7:15 pm

  50. Jeff, I answered that. Some do, some don’t. So what?

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 7:40 pm

  51. I find the whole microagression rhetoric kind of silly but I’m not quite sure the ultimate point it. I assume it’s an attack on a certain kind of pluralism, but what kind?

    It’s interesting you cast this into the Master/Slave dichotomy. One should note when reading this that he’s reacting to the Master/Slave dialectic in Hegel (which in turn affects much of 19th century thought)

    Nietzsche’s treatment takes the slave morality as a kind of resentment or revaluing of the values of the master. Thus it’s not mastery but subversion. For Nietzsche, much as with Hegel, this is an ongoing struggle.

    Now I think a lot of the whole victimology that’s going on in universities right now partakes a lot of this. However this is actually explicit since most of these types of rhetoric arise completely out of Foucault who of course considered himself a Niezschean of a sort. So a focus on power relations through a certain prism is itself a kind of Nietzschean analysis of mastery. The move to invert this is in some ways this slave morality but it’s also a kind of balancing between subversion of the slave and a seeking of mastery. Unlike what Nietzsche saw in say Christianity as a kind of demanding all become slaves the quest for power is an attempt to overcome this. Unfortunately it’s also become (at least to my ears) instead of an attempt at mastery a privileging of un-privilage.

    It’s certainly odd and I don’t think most doing it have thought it through terribly well. But then I also don’t think Nietzsche and Foucault are an useful prism to see the world through.

    Comment by Clark — January 21, 2016 @ 7:43 pm

  52. Jeff sorry, in that first line I meant the ultimate point of your post. That is if it’s just to say a focus on victimhood isn’t healthy I agree.

    Like you say in (4) I just don’t see the Church being led to a victimhood rhetoric – although there was an unfortunate tendency in the 20th century to self-define in terms of opposition against us. I think we’ve moved pass that though.

    For the rest, I confess I’m not following the point of dispute between you and Howard. But then I suspect the key issue is what we mean by domination. Typically, especially in 20th century Mormonism, God’s power and domination is seen to arise out of persuasion. Thus all the elements obey God and we are different because we choose not to. God’s power is ultimately due to the obedience of people and the limits on his power are the same. That’s not the only model of Mormonism of course and tends to be a thread going back to Orson Pratt. But it was a rather popular one.

    The problem is of course is what we mean by domination. It seems that often what is called domination isn’t. The old “sticks and stones can hurt me but words can’t.”

    Comment by Clark — January 21, 2016 @ 7:51 pm

  53. Howard,

    For the seventh time, I’m not asking if people agree with your premises. Nor am I asking why they disagree. I’m asking if you agree that you’re begging the question?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 7:51 pm

  54. That may be your interpretation but I don’t agree that I’m posing a logical fallacy, each person is entitled to test it in their own mind. Is it a fallacy to insist that bias exists?

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 8:04 pm

  55. Clark,

    I’m definitely NOT arguing against pluralism. If anything, my goal is building the conceptual bridges that I think Haidt somewhat fails in building. Mostly I’m trying to draw attention to that really interesting article since it reconstructs the logic of three different cultures in the hopes that we can be understand those who we are otherwise tempted to demonize.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 8:07 pm

  56. Howard,

    I’ve asked you this question in the following comments:
    36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 47, 49 and 53. And that’s the closest you’ve come to answering it. This will be the ninth time.

    Let’s just say that I start by assuming that all people named “Howard” are bad people who ought to be punished. A church member would wonder where it says that in the scriptures. I respond, “Of course it’s not there! Many, if not all of the authors were actually named Howard and they covered fact up for ‘obvious reasons’.” I could then spin all sorts of theories and moral imperatives and not a single person would be able to refute me. (Seriously, how could you ever refute such a claim?)

    Would you not think that it is perfectly okay to ignore me? I could split hairs and draw distinctions and logical derivations until the cows come home, but you’re never really going to care or take me too seriously one way or the other *because you do not accept the premises upon which such reasoning is carried out*.

    This is what you are doing. To be sure, your moral reasoning is based in something a bit more plausible than my example, but unless the people you’re engaging actually accept your premises there is no qualitative difference between you and the example. Since they do not accept your views regarding privilege, bias, etc. they don’t really care what conclusions you are able to draw from such assumptions.

    Is such a person, by the moral premises which they themselves accept, perfectly justified in ignoring your arguments?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 8:24 pm

  57. Perhaps more simply:

    1) An argument must work from shared premises in order to be persuasive.
    2) Your argument does not work from shared premises.
    3) Your argument is not persuasive.

    This wouldn’t be a problem were it not for the fact that you make no attempt whatsoever to establish shared premises.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 21, 2016 @ 8:26 pm

  58. So you assumption is that my argument doesn’t work with anyone but myself? What it that were demonstrated that it worked with a few? Is it’s relevancertainly and truth determined by popular vote?

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 8:37 pm

  59. relevance and truth

    Comment by Howard — January 21, 2016 @ 8:38 pm

  60. I disagree with the premise of your #57, it is far too limited. The goal of consciousness raising is to change premises, sharing them is not necessary to accomplish that, in fact they typically are unshared premises when the process begins. The goal of psychotherapy is to change premises, sharing them is not necessary to accomplish that. A TBM shelf collapse is the process of changing premises and it is caused by exploring opposing of differing premises. Cross cultural communication must be accomplished in spite of unshared premises. Unshared premises are a smaller problem than closed mindedness, denial including the Pollyanna type and psychological defenses.

    Comment by Howard — January 22, 2016 @ 8:14 am

  61. Howard,

    Coming in unasked and without any authority or duty towards people to “change [their] premises” is the height of hubris, which is why I don’t believe your many claims to transcendence. The people I’ve met who are closer to God display quite different characteristics.

    I’m only surprised Jeff G. still wastes time arguing with you. Most everyone else has given it up as pointless already. No one has interest in fostering “communication” with people who are only interested in communicating one way. But it is common for a certain type of person to use seemingly collaborative language to cover their condescension.

    Comment by SilverRain — January 22, 2016 @ 8:55 am

  62. No, thats far to extreme and personalized SR! Advertising and all forms of consciousness raising including proselytizing, ending slavery, civil rights, equal rights, feminism and much of politics are about changing peoples premises. Exposing the church’s controversial doctrine and history is changing peoples premises. It’s all around you, I merely pointing it out.

    Comment by Howard — January 22, 2016 @ 9:06 am

  63. Pfft. You come in and brag about needing to change people’s premises—the premises they have built their faith on—and calling Jeff close-minded, and all those who disagree with you “Pollyanna types” and swimming in denial, and you claim I’m being too personal by calling you on it?

    I’ve played that game before, Howard. People who want to “consciousness raise” are too embroiled in their own self-satisfaction to have any hope of communicating with anyone else, whatever cause they paint on their flags. You lack the ability to point out anything about the Church I don’t already know. That has been proven multiple times in every interaction I’ve seen you participate in online.

    Your type is so eager to “enhance the consciousness” of everyone else, while assiduously refraining from ever examining your own motives and perspectives. Total waste of time. I wouldn’t have even bothered pointing it out to you, if I hadn’t wanted to support Jeff in his (albeit misguided) attempts to meet you on equal ground. It can’t be done, because your self-erected pedestal is far too high. I hate to see him spin his wheels in the muck you shovel.

    But I’ve said more than enough on that subject at this time. I don’t vent my spleen often, but you cluttering up this blog (which I generally enjoy reading) with your comments certainly bring it out. You’re welcome to hang that badge on your mirror.

    I’m done getting down in the muck with you for now.

    Comment by SilverRain — January 22, 2016 @ 10:40 am

  64. To change a premise one must present arguments and arguments depend upon shared premises.

    Comment by Clark — January 22, 2016 @ 10:41 am

  65. SR where did I call Jeff close-minded? Which comment?

    Social evolution wouldn’t happen without consciousness raising.

    Nice ad hominem SR. My type? So I’ve never examining my own motives and perspectives? How could you possibly be in any kind of a position to make that judgement SR?

    Comment by Howard — January 22, 2016 @ 10:51 am

  66. Only to the extent that one intellectualizes Clark! There are other forms of communication that are capable of changing one’s perspective.

    Comment by Howard — January 22, 2016 @ 10:54 am

  67. How and to what extent is bigotry overcome by sharing premises?

    Comment by Howard — January 22, 2016 @ 11:04 am

  68. Howard, but those other forms of experience/communication aren’t too relevant in a discussion in blog comments.

    Comment by Clark — January 22, 2016 @ 1:16 pm

  69. Oh, why not Clark?

    Comment by Howard — January 22, 2016 @ 1:37 pm

  70. Howard,

    Simply stating that you are not caught in a logical fallacy is not the best way of defending yourself against the accusation. Let me see if I can frame the issue a bit clearer in terms of the topic at hand.

    Contrary to what Clark thought, my position is a very pluralistic one. I am more concerned with showing how different moral cultures will understand things differently – ways that very roughly correspond to authoritarian, liberal and socialist perspectives (these roughly correspond to the honor, dignity and victimhood cultures in the OP). While I do think that scriptures and revelation given so far are very compatible with the critical perspective, I have acknowledged in this thread that there almost certainly are ways of making it work. In other words, I fully grant that your way of reading the scriptures is *optional*.

    You, however, do not return the favor. You absolutely refuse to acknowledge the optional nature of your own position by insisting that the authoritarian and liberal views are not merely different but positively wrong. This becomes perfectly clear when you deride all those who do not bring the same assumptions to the scriptures as you do as “spiritually immature”, “clouded by immoral biases”, etc. At no point do you ever allow for the possibility that other people from these different worldview might be just as – just differently – “enlightened” as you are.

    It is not unreasonable to ask for some kind of justification for the manner in which you position yourself above others in this way. Unfortunately, the only justifications that you ever offer assume, rather than establish, that you’re right and they are wrong. The insults mentioned above are clear examples. At other times you simply reassert the position that needs support. Perhaps the most annoying is when you support your position by asking a rhetorical question and then pretend as if your answer were the only *real* answer because your view says so. Other times you’ll just appeal to your own private revelation and expect that to be good enough for others.

    At no point are you willing to start from shared premises that those you are supposed to be arguing against actually agree to. This just is, by very definition, a logical fallacy. You are trying to exclude an option without ever actually engaging the option. You never attack it on its own terms. These are *logical fallacies* and you commit all of them. (This is especially ironic considering how often you falsely accuse others of “ad hominems” and “question dodging”. SR committed neither of these sins, BTW. At no point did she ever argue that you’re wrong because of who you are. Instead, she argued against your objectionable behavior, just like I am.)

    The fact that you dodged a fairly straight forward question 8 (yes 8!) times strongly implies 1) you know that you’re guilty of the fallacy and don’t want to own up to it, or 2) that you didn’t know what the fallacy was and are, therefore, unqualified to establish your innocence. Given your confused accusation of ad hominem attack against SR, I assume it’s the latter.

    As for your response to Clark’s comments – you have definitely allowed others, and actively so, to assume that you are indeed reasoning. Too late to back out now! You have never objected to framing issues in terms of premises/conclusions and you often ask for evidence and answers to questions from others. Other times you accuse others of “dodging” when they do not give a reasoned response. This just is reasoning and you don’t get to pretend that you weren’t playing the reasoning game whenever it works to your advantage.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 22, 2016 @ 3:52 pm

  71. SR,

    There are three reasons why I carried on as long as I did. 1) I have a problem. Asking me to walk away from an argument is like asking an alcoholic to walk right by an open bar.
    2) I still had hope for Howard. I’ve tried so many ways to help him better connect with those he’s trying to convert (myself included), but after this I think I’ve given up.
    3) I really wanted to see how many times – an exact number – he would dodge the question and to what lengths he would go in order to not acknowledge his own errors/ignorance. This will serve as a very nice rebuttal to him when he (quite often) accuses others of question dodging.

    Let’s be honest though, the real answer is, sadly, (1): I have a problem.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 22, 2016 @ 4:03 pm

  72. Jeff wrote:The insults mentioned above are clear examples.

    Gee Jeff I never mentioned “spiritually immature” or “immoral biases” in this thread nor can I remember ever using those phrases so I don’t know what you are talking about here and apparently you don’t either!

    I didn’t dodge a fairly straight forward question 8 times. Your question can be read two ways, I wasn’t aware of a logical fallacy called “begging the question”. I read it as three separate words meaning inviting the question.

    You re making the accusation of logical fallacy so please be my guest and clearly lay that fallacy out!

    Comment by Howard — January 22, 2016 @ 4:44 pm

  73. In this week alone you have accused those of a traditional authoritarian morality as “very psychologically immature” and you have said that “the reason you struggle with this Jeff is that you have not personally received revelation.” You accuse the church of having “lost the intensity of their spiritual connection with God and would benefit greatly from renewing it in place of the apologetic sophistry offered for it’s many weaknesses.” Should I go on?

    “You re making the accusation of logical fallacy so please be my guest and clearly lay that fallacy out!”

    I have! So. Many. Times. Here’s a decent start:

    Any form of argument in which the conclusion occurs as one of the premisses. More generally, a chain of arguments in which the final conclusion is a premiss of one of the earlier arguments in the chain. Still more generally, an argument begs the question when it assumes any controversial point not conceded by the other side…

    To beg the question is to assume something that you have no right to assume. What don’t you have a right to assume? The conclusion itself, obviously, or any proposition that is just the conclusion stated in different words. Clearly, to use any argument in which the conclusion is also one of the premisses is to reason in a circle: reasoning from the premisses to the conclusion brings you back to where you started…

    For an argument to have any epistemological or dialectical force, it must start from premisses already known or believed by its audience, and proceed to a conclusion not known or believed. This, of course, rules out the worst cases of Begging the Question, when the conclusion is the very same proposition as the premiss, since one cannot both believe and not believe the same thing. A viciously circular argument is one with a conclusion based ultimately upon that conclusion itself, and such arguments can never advance our knowledge.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 22, 2016 @ 5:02 pm

  74. I said the concept of honor culture is very psychologically immature. In order to see it let’s take a fairly extreme example of dueling. I don’t think a rational argument can be made for participating in a duel (do you?) and today apparently most of the world agrees because dueling has gone out of style. So what is going on psychologically? Well two things come quickly to mind 1) shame avoidance and 2) contaminated thinking. I wouldn’t call this psychologically mature would you?Sometimes contaminated thinking is commonly referred to as drinking the Kool-Aid but it can be more clearly explained and one of the easiest ways to understand it is to look at the problem using Transactional Analysis slide 3 explains how our Adult mind (ideally clearly rational) can become contaminated by our Parental biases and our Child biases. Now there’s nothing wrong with honor but when when we erupt into offense and anger ready to physically defend honor we are acting psychologically immature as voted by the world’s decision to retire dueling as a means of defending honor.

    Comment by Howard — January 22, 2016 @ 5:31 pm

  75. You accuse the church of having “lost the intensity of their spiritual connection with God and would benefit greatly from renewing it in place of the apologetic sophistry offered for it’s many weaknesses.”

    The loss of intensity can easily be seen by comparing today’s revelations and the method of revelation to those of Joseph. Joseph translated the BoM, organized the church via revelation and dictated the D&C in “thus saith the lord” revelation.

    Thomas told us to be nice to widows, stay away from porn, go on a mission younger, get married younger and gays children are to receive discriminatory handling.

    Joseph literally lived up to the title of Prophet Seer Revelator his methods are well documented but the current church uses the more simplified method of spiritual confromation described by Hugh B. Brown:

    “(An idea) is submitted to the First Presidency and Twelve, thrashed out, discussed and rediscussed until it seems right. Then, kneeling together in a circle in the temple, they seek divine guidance and the president says, ‘I feel to say this is the will of the Lord.’ That becomes a revelation. It is usually not thought necessary to publish or proclaim it as such, but this is the way it happens.”

    I have posted these comparisons several times, if you want greater detail they’re searchable.

    Comment by Howard — January 22, 2016 @ 6:45 pm

  76. “the reason you struggle with this Jeff is that you have not personally received revelation.”

    Get over it, it’s opinion based on experience. Can you san the same? If so I’d love to hear about your experiences.

    Comment by Howard — January 22, 2016 @ 6:48 pm

  77. My Lai Vietnam sophistry: “It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.”

    Q15 sophistry: it became necessary to discriminate against the children of gays by denying them saving ordinances in order to protect them.

    Comment by Howard — January 22, 2016 @ 7:07 pm

  78. Elder Russell M. Nelson says gay policy is ‘will of the Lord’. Without using circular reasoning how is this not a begging the question fallacy?

    Comment by Howard — January 22, 2016 @ 7:16 pm

  79. Whenever I see someone trumpet their admiration of Joseph Smith and at the same time scoff at Pres. Monson or some other modern leader, I wonder if they ever ask themselves how they would have responded to Joseph Smith at the trying times, such as at the time of the Zion’s Camp, the Kirtland Safety Society fallout, and rumors of polygamy.

    I tend to think that their response would not be as much like Heber and Brigham as it would be like Cowdery, Sylvester, and Law. Not that I mean to bash the latter. They all seem earnest and are probably better men than I.

    Yet it seems as obvious as anything to me that our response to the Lords’ servants today reflects what our response to Joseph would have been, had we been then and there, or our response to Jesus, had we been then and there. Others see it differently, I guess.

    Comment by at — January 23, 2016 @ 8:53 pm

  80. Howard (69) because blog comments are communication of the other sort. You can’t say the communication is theses other sorts and miss the fact that communication in comments is purely textual.

    Comment by Clark — January 24, 2016 @ 11:36 am

  81. Master morality is in BoM terms the doctrine of Korihor. Every man prospers according to his own strength, and who cares about all the rest.

    In Nietzchean terms it seems fair to conclude that anyone who opposes the devil is a slave, including God himself.

    The very idea that some masters – the common good for example – are more worthy of serving than others doesn’t seem to have crossed his mind.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 31, 2016 @ 6:52 pm