2008-04-21 - Yeah, I'm okay wit dat ...

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Re: Yeah, I'm okay wit dat ...

Postby BloodHenge » April 28th, 2008, 2:50 am

erewhon wrote:
Boss Out of Town wrote:
erewhon wrote:The book An Intimate History of Killing is a good place to start for the psychology of martial murder.
Ian, though, is a civilian. He has no sanction from another group. He just wants to start at a and get to b and I don't think anyone in his way has a chance.

Again, that thing about applying 20th Century Western liberal legalisms to a extra-legal adventure story.

I don't recall Samwise Gamgee signing any enlistment papers or going to boot camp. His companions cheered him when he killed his first orc.

Off the fantasy track, when the Cheyenne women cheered for their men going off to take on "Yellowhair", Custer, then used knives and hatchets to finish off the wounded scattered on that barren hill above the Little Big Horn, no one was checking their paperwork to see if they were non-combatants. That camp in Montana was their Santurial, and, as far as they knew, those horsemen were seeking out their last refuge to kill them all. Generally, history cuts you a little slack in that situation.


Ah, you deliberately misconstrue my words to make what point? I make a psychological point, and you mention legal activities. What are you, a lawyer? Those Indian women were acting with the sanction of the group. Sam Gamgee's actions were sanction retrospectively, but IIRC, he'd had prior examples of the group sanctioning similar behaviour. When the Irish kerns were finishing off the French knights at Agincourt, they acted with the permission of the group. I repeat, Ian is a lone individual needing no group sanction to complete his killing spree; rather, he is more akin to a serial murderer, let loose from all norms and restraints. He makes his own rules, and has the power to enforce them.

And if Anita and the Ensigerium monks, or his neighbors back in Santuariel, were to find out what he's been doing all afternoon, do you think any of them will complain that there are a few dozen fewer Elves in the world? And as I recall, he and Anita were discussing just that earlier this morning.
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Re: Yeah, I'm okay wit dat ...

Postby erewhon » April 28th, 2008, 4:07 am

BloodHenge wrote:And if Anita and the Ensigerium monks, or his neighbors back in Santuariel, were to find out what he's been doing all afternoon, do you think any of them will complain that there are a few dozen fewer Elves in the world? And as I recall, he and Anita were discussing just that earlier this morning.


My enemy's enemy is my friend? Ian's connection with the Ensigerum is tenous at best. He hasn't identified with them in the slightest. Ian currently has a mission of his own; it may coincide with the aims of the Ensigerum and Anita, but that is all. Once he's finished with the elves, he may well have a go at the Ensigerum. Who knows?

I think Ian may have some loyalty to a particular (loose-knit) group however. If he was within the group of Sarine, Jon etc, then he might pay attention but I have my doubts: he hasn't bonded that well with the rest of that group, he hasn't had enough time. The only person that he has bonded with, he isn't paying much attention to at this point and I can't say that I blame him. At this point, he will go ballistic, as he has done already and survival wasn't at stake when he did. He got angry and wiped out a couple of towns. The elves threaten his and Meij's survival; oh, can you spell apocalypse? (See, no mention of the G word).

I suppose the main difference between a serial killer and a dictator is that the dictator, outside of fiction, doesn't do his or hers own killing.

Of course, you could say that psychology doesn't apply to fictional, alien beings. I would point out that ES is being written by a human :) No offense, but I don't think any writer has really portrayed an alien psychology. And if they did, I don't think their works would be read.
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Re: Yeah, I'm okay wit dat ...

Postby Boss Out of Town » April 28th, 2008, 5:02 am

erewhon wrote:
Boss Out of Town wrote:
erewhon wrote:The book An Intimate History of Killing is a good place to start for the psychology of martial murder.
Ian, though, is a civilian. He has no sanction from another group. He just wants to start at a and get to b and I don't think anyone in his way has a chance.

Again, that thing about applying 20th Century Western liberal legalisms to a extra-legal adventure story.


Ah, you deliberately misconstrue my words to make what point? I make a psychological point, and you mention legal activities. What are you, a lawyer? Those Indian women were acting with the sanction of the group. Sam Gamgee's actions were sanction retrospectively, but IIRC, he'd had prior examples of the group sanctioning similar behaviour. When the Irish kerns were finishing off the French knights at Agincourt, they acted with the permission of the group. I repeat, Ian is a lone individual needing no group sanction to complete his killing spree; rather, he is more akin to a serial murderer, let loose from all norms and restraints. He makes his own rules, and has the power to enforce them.

Thanks, but I interpreted your words as you wrote them. "Civilian" is a legal term. "sanction" is a legal term. "lone individual" and "group sanction" are legal terms. In public discourse, they most often appear in news accounts by police, lawyers, and official spokesmen being careful that they using exact language for legal purposes. If these words are used otherwise in your psych classes, you should clarify that point for the reader.

The Elvish campaign to exterminate the half-elves has been going on for two centuries at this point and has been very successful, reducing the half-elves to (as far as we know) a single village of impoverished refugees and a few stray wanderers whose status could be described as "the rangers haven't found them and killed them quite yet." The "group" Ian belongs to is that of the half-elves marked for murder by the Elves of the city he is currently attacking. His purpose in being in the city is to rescue a member of his "group" who was kidnapped for interrogation and execution by a diplomatic delegation.

It would help the credibility of your arguments if you wrote a couple of sentences indicating that you are aware of the back story of the comic.
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Re: Yeah, I'm okay wit dat ...

Postby BloodHenge » April 28th, 2008, 1:42 pm

erewhon wrote:I suppose the main difference between a serial killer and a dictator is that the dictator, outside of fiction, doesn't do his or hers own killing.

I'm not sure where this line is coming from-- Ian hasn't tried to conquer or rule anyone so far. But I'm reasonably certain that it's possible to have a benevolent dictator, even though there may not be too many modern examples.
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Re: Yeah, I'm okay wit dat ...

Postby Boss Out of Town » April 28th, 2008, 9:36 pm

BloodHenge wrote:
erewhon wrote:I suppose the main difference between a serial killer and a dictator is that the dictator, outside of fiction, doesn't do his or hers own killing.

I'm not sure where this line is coming from-- Ian hasn't tried to conquer or rule anyone so far. But I'm reasonably certain that it's possible to have a benevolent dictator, even though there may not be too many modern examples.

If I am translating this correctly it is an attempt to link psychology and politics. There was a movement of this kind years and years ago, Back before the Pomos became the fashionable fad in history. What erewhon is doing is analyzing political actions as though they were clinical pathologies. That is, instead of Hitler conquering the world because he was an egotistical nationalist fanatic who wanted revenge for World War I, he is disagnosed as having a problem with his brain chemistry like John Wayne Gacy. A compulsion to kill, only he sends armies out to do it. I never liked it because (a) it relies too much on alleging mysterious forces underlying observable behavior, and (b) it takes common human behaviors and declares them to be sicknesses. A dangerous thing, in science or politics.

That's not to say that dictators can't be mentally ill. Stalin, in particular, was a paranoid who had numbers of people purged and killed just to keep the others scared. Also, (per, I think, Scharansky) he liked to watch torture sessions. Hitler, on the other hand, didn't like looking at blood, battlefields, or wounded soldiers. He usually only reviewed his troops when they were fresh and clean.

Erewhon, what is the clinical description of someone who slaps people around (or sends armies to do so) far beyond his the norm of his culture, just to assert himself as on top of the hierarchy? That part of psych analysis of dictators I can get behind. It is common, readily observable, and links directly to the primate behavior patterns underlying human behavior.
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Re: Yeah, I'm okay wit dat ...

Postby erewhon » April 29th, 2008, 3:40 am

Boss Out of Town wrote:Thanks, but I interpreted your words as you wrote them. "Civilian" is a legal term. "sanction" is a legal term. "lone individual" and "group sanction" are legal terms. In public discourse, they most often appear in news accounts by police, lawyers, and official spokesmen being careful that they using exact language for legal purposes. If these words are used otherwise in your psych classes, you should clarify that point for the reader.

The Elvish campaign to exterminate the half-elves has been going on for two centuries at this point and has been very successful, reducing the half-elves to (as far as we know) a single village of impoverished refugees and a few stray wanderers whose status could be described as "the rangers haven't found them and killed them quite yet." The "group" Ian belongs to is that of the half-elves marked for murder by the Elves of the city he is currently attacking. His purpose in being in the city is to rescue a member of his "group" who was kidnapped for interrogation and execution by a diplomatic delegation.

It would help the credibility of your arguments if you wrote a couple of sentences indicating that you are aware of the back story of the comic.


Alas, you are wilful in your misinterpretation of my comments. If you want to do that, I cannot stop you. As I look at your other "interpretation" of my other comment, I see you are full of facts but with no sense. A little too eager to prove yourself master of the field. Ah well. Au revoir mon petit.
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Re: Yeah, I'm okay wit dat ...

Postby Boss Out of Town » April 29th, 2008, 6:16 am

erewhon wrote:Alas, you are wilful in your misinterpretation of my comments. If you want to do that, I cannot stop you. As I look at your other "interpretation" of my other comment, I see you are full of facts but with no sense. A little too eager to prove yourself master of the field.

Sorry, dude. Damn, if you wanted to have a discussion without "facts" you shoulda said so . . .

erewhon wrote:Ah well. Au revoir mon petit.

Cool. I've always enjoyed the Anita Blake novels. More the violent parts than the orgy scenes, but they can be fun, too.
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Re: Yeah, I'm okay wit dat ...

Postby Forrest » April 29th, 2008, 7:29 pm

Boss Out of Town wrote: (b) it takes common human behaviors and declares them to be sicknesses. A dangerous thing, in science or politics.


what is the clinical description of someone who slaps people around (or sends armies to do so) far beyond his the norm of his culture, just to assert himself as on top of the hierarchy? That part of psych analysis of dictators I can get behind. It is common, readily observable, and links directly to the primate behavior patterns underlying human behavior.


Just picking at nits here, but there seems to be an underlying assumption to these two comments which really bothers me (and it's not just a quirky assumption of yours, but one I've seen around in professional psychology texts too): that a mental or behavioral pattern can be determined to be healthy or sick on the basis of how common, popular, or "natural" it is. It seems to be closely linked to ideas of moral relativism (many of which I'm seeing thrown around in this thread, e.g. talk of whether or not Ian's actions are sanctioned by a larger social group - what does that matter?), and I'm surprised to see it buried in your comments, Boss, since you seem to share my distaste for such pomobabble.

On a related note, it seems odd to me that anyone would not consider either a mass murderer (who does his own killings by hand) or a genocidal dictator (who has lackeys to do that dirty work for him) mentally unhealthy, a.k.a. "insane". The only explanation I can think of here is the conflation of cognitive insanity with behavior insanity. The former is a failure of one's ability to think rationally, a failure to grasp or consider the logical relations between ideas, or an error of justification (e.g. falsely believing things for no good reason, or disbelieving things one has good reason to believe). That kind of insanity is a disconnect from reality. Then there is the failure of one's ability to act rationally, a failure to grasp or consider the consequences of one's actions, or an error of motivation (e.g. feeling compelled to act in ways one has no good reason to act, or averse to acting in ways one has good reason to act). That kind of insanity is a disconnect from morality (in a secular, non-religious sense of the word). As such, I don't see how you could not call someone who murders someone, directly or indirectly, or commits any likewise morally criminal act, "insane".

That is to say, given circumstances where someone in their right mind cognitively (i.e. they believe all and only those things they have reason to believe[*]) would not have justification for believing it necessary to commit such an act, and someone in their right mind behaviourally (i.e. they wish to do all and only those things that they have reason to do[*]) would not be motivated to commit such an act, and yet some person does commit that act... that person has clearly had a mental failure of one of the aforementioned types.

Though I suppose there is a tricky continuum problem here, too. Nobody is perfectly rational in either thought or action: we all make errors in judgement, make false inferences and little leaps of faith, and have unwarranted emotional reactions and bizarre cravings and so forth. But we don't want to call everybody insane just because everybody is irrational sometimes. We want to say that only people who are exceptionally irrational, constantly holding unreasonable beliefs or constantly performing unreasonable acts, are insane; those of us who are fallible but usually rational, we want to call sane. But where do you draw the line? Myself, I'd have a hard time considering a religious fundamentalist, who believes that the world is flat and 6,000 years old and there's a big bearded guy up in the sky somewhere outside the universe, cognitively sane. Likewise, I'd have a hard time considering a genocidal dictator who wants to exterminate an entire body of people, most of whom he has never met, for whatever reason, to be behaviorally sane. BUT...

[*]There is a deeper philosophical problem here too. On what basis does someone ever have reason to believe something? On what basis does anyone ever have any reason to act? Both of these questions face infinite regress problems, which for those unversed in philosophy are problems of this nature: we say that the reason for A is B, and the reason or B is C, and the reason for C is D, and so forth... but surely that kind of chain can't go on forever, and at some point we have to say "you should do/believe P because Q, and you should do/believe Q... just because. How could you not? Q is basic, self-evident, self-justifying." (Yes, I'm aware of coherentist and infinitist proposed solutions to this, but foundationalism like this is the dominant school and the one most in jive with "common sense" - though I don't entirely buy foundationalism myself).

My own "basic", self-justifying ultimate justifiers are perception and conception for beliefs, leaving me a logical empiricist in that regard; and appetite and empathy for actions, leaving me a kind of altruistic hedonist in that regard. This is why I find the religious fundamentalist and the genocidal dictator both "insane" or irrational, for flagrantly disregarding observational evidence and logic (in the case of the fundamentalist) and other people's worth (in the case of the dictator). But who is to say that I'm right about these ultimate justifiers, and those guys are wrong? Maybe making shit up is the ultimate source of knowledge and killing people en masse is the ultimate good. And I'm not sure what to say to that other than "that's crazy"... but then I'd just be begging the question, wouldn't I?
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Re: Yeah, I'm okay wit dat ...

Postby BloodHenge » April 29th, 2008, 7:40 pm

Forrest wrote:Then there is the failure of one's ability to act rationally, a failure to grasp or consider the consequences of one's actions, or an error of motivation (e.g. feeling compelled to act in ways one has no good reason to act, or averse to acting in ways one has good reason to act). That kind of insanity is a disconnect from morality (in a secular, non-religious sense of the word). As such, I don't see how you could not call someone who murders someone, directly or indirectly, or commits any likewise morally criminal act, "insane".

Criminal activity is not, by itself, necessarily irrational. It's entirely possible for a particular criminal act to pass a cost/benefit analysis and a risk assessment, depending on the analyst's criteria. Under such circumstances, it could be considered irrational to obey the law-- even the law against murder.

To make an analogy to your own example, most people break the law sometimes, in minor ways. They occasionally exceed the speed limit when driving, or jaywalk if they can see that no vehicles are dangerously close. People cheat on their taxes and shoplift. Where do we draw the distinction between a law-abiding citizen and a criminal?
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Re: Yeah, I'm okay wit dat ...

Postby Forrest » April 29th, 2008, 9:02 pm

BloodHenge wrote:
Forrest wrote:Then there is the failure of one's ability to act rationally, a failure to grasp or consider the consequences of one's actions, or an error of motivation (e.g. feeling compelled to act in ways one has no good reason to act, or averse to acting in ways one has good reason to act). That kind of insanity is a disconnect from morality (in a secular, non-religious sense of the word). As such, I don't see how you could not call someone who murders someone, directly or indirectly, or commits any likewise morally criminal act, "insane".

Criminal activity is not, by itself, necessarily irrational. It's entirely possible for a particular criminal act to pass a cost/benefit analysis and a risk assessment, depending on the analyst's criteria. Under such circumstances, it could be considered irrational to obey the law-- even the law against murder.

To make an analogy to your own example, most people break the law sometimes, in minor ways. They occasionally exceed the speed limit when driving, or jaywalk if they can see that no vehicles are dangerously close. People cheat on their taxes and shoplift. Where do we draw the distinction between a law-abiding citizen and a criminal?

Note that I used the phrase "morally criminal". I'm not talking about what is or is not illegal but what is or is not wrong. I chose that phrase because "immoral" is ambiguous (does that mean merely bad, or evil, morally prohibited? Do any of those have religious connotations or not? How does "immoral" differ, if at all, from "unethical"? etc). The phrase is analogous to other "moral"/"legal" distinctions (moral obligations vs legal obligations, etc), and is roughly equivalent to "morally prohibited", which is a stronger claim than just "bad", and in turn is roughly equivalent to "would be illegal in a state with a perfectly just set of laws". I fully acknowledge that "rational" and "legal" do not always, or even often, coincide; in fact, as a philosophical anarchist, I don't think the law is worth the paper it's printed on.

But more importantly, you seem to have missed my final point before, that what exactly constitutes "rationality" of either variety is somewhat of an open question, as well as my comments on what in my opinion constitutes behavioral rationality. You seem to assume that to behave rationally is to behave out of consideration for your own good (for whatever value of 'good' you'd like; pleasure [short or long term], longevity, reproductive fitness, etc) with complete apathy and disregard toward the good of others, other than as instrumental to your own good. To me, that seems as irrational as believing only the things that you can immediately sense right now, and having no concept that there are other (literal) points of view besides the one you are inhabiting. This epistemic/moral analogy is a central part of my philosophy:

Acting completely impulsively off of your present appetites, with no regard to future consequences or the feelings of others, much less justice in the abstract, is analogous to seeing the world as nothing but a flux of flat sensations streaming over your senses, with no concept of enduring patterns in those sensations, much less the three-dimensional world that they represent or further still, abstract notions of metaphysical possibility and necessity, what could or must be.

Acting in your own long-term self-interest, but still disregarding the feelings of others and justice in the abstract, is like noticing patterns in the flux of sensations streaming over your senses, but still not recognizing them as representative of a three-dimensional world, which is only one of many possible worlds that could be.

Acting out of empathy, considering other people as intrinsically worthwhile just like yourself, considering other (figurative) points of view besides your own, is analogous to recognizing that that sensation you have of a shaded circle in front of you is not just a pattern of light, but it is your particular view of a three dimensional object called a "ball", and that, though you can't personally see it right now, there is actually another side to that ball, visible from other (literal) points of view, which looks different from the side you see right now but, despite those differences, is equally real.

And then there's the further abstraction of the moral world into ideas of justice independent of existing people's actual desires, into deontic notions of permissibility and obligation, which are analogous to considerations of metaphysical possibility and necessity, independent of the merely contingent facts of the actual world.

But the key step here is that third one. Someone who lives in a purely self-interested fashion seems to me as irrational as someone who fails to recognize the existence of three-dimensional objects. That other people matter seems as self-evident to me as that things exist even when you aren't looking at them. Yes, the self-interested person who acts in his long-term self interest is more rational than the one who acts on pure impulse, just as someone who recognizes patterns in his flat, two-dimensional perceptions is more rational than one who just sees an unconnected string of images; but likewise, the long-term self-interested person is still failing to acknowledge the "three-dimensionality", analogously speaking, of the moral world.
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