Monday, March 22, 2004


I have just been reading a much-linked article on moral philosophy by Prof. Gilbert Harman of the Philosophy Dept. at Princeton -- titled "Moral Philosophy Meets Social Psychology". Judging by his publication list, Harman is one of the eminences of American moral philosophy so I am sorry to say that in my view his article is straight out of cloud-cuckoo land (with apologies to Aristophanes). I have no idea of Harman's general political orientation but his argument on this subject is classic Leftist stuff. To oversimplify a little, he claims that there is no such thing as a stable personality trait in anybody and that "It's all situational". It is only people's environment that dictates how they behave. So there is no barrier to creating a "new Soviet man", for instance. He claims, in other words, that there is no such thing as a "kind" man, a "dominant" man a "selfish" man etc. etc. His reasoning seems to be the completely fallacious: "Because nobody is kind all the time, therefore nobody is kind most of the time".

His article is deceptive from the outset. He claims that his view is "widespread" among social psychologists. If one psychologist in half a dozen countries around the world held such a view, I suppose the view could indeed be described as "widespread" but that would not at all mean that it is a majority view. And to my knowledge it is in fact the view of only a small minority of psychologists. Such a view had some vogue in response to a paper by Mischel (Mischel, W. (1977) "On the future of personality measurement" American Psychologist 32, 246-254) but the vast majority of psychologists continued to talk of traits nonetheless.

Where Harman appears to have gone wrong is in his narrow view of social psychology. There are two strands of social psychology -- the experimental and the correlational. The typical method of the first is to tell lies to your students and see what happens next while the typical method of the second is simply to ask people what they think about a variety of topics. Almost all my papers are in the latter tradition. And the reason why I and many others do the sort of psychology we do is that we find the totally unknowable generalizability of the experimental work to be deeply unsatisfactory. Neither people nor situations are normally sampled in any way in such work so any attempt to draw general conclusions from its results is faith, not science. And it is the "faith-based" work that Harman relies on.

The more soundly-based correlational work, on the other hand, almost automatically has the means of examining the sort of assertion made by Harman. It has the data to tell (via factor analysis etc.) whether there is any trait-like consistency in what people report about themselves. And there is. People do report considerable consistency in how they behave from situation to situation. And not only that, but the consistency can usually be readily summarized by normal trait adjectives, and OTHER PEOPLE agree that the self-described consistencies of behaviour do exist in the individual concerned (e.g. here). Harman has simply not attempted to look at the evidence most relevant to his assertion. But unconcern about the evidence is of course hardly new among Leftists. I would even describe it as one of their "traits"!



Why animal rights don't exist: "My point was, in essence, that rights are just not the sort of things animals other than people could have. Could animals have guilt, be blamed, feel regret and remorse, or apologize or anything on that order? No, and why so, that was the gist of my thesis: They are not moral agents like us, not even the great apes." I must say that I cannot see any way that rights can arise except through some sort of contract (implicit or explicit) or law so the idea of inborn animal rights seems mere emotionalism to me. Though I imagine that Keith Burgess Jackson might have something to say about that.

PETA's latest: Constitutional rights for fish! "Sorry, crustaceans and reptiles. You didn't make People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' list of animals that deserve protection under their proposed constitutional amendment, which declares 'all mammals, birds, and fish will, henceforth, be defined as 'persons' in the eyes of the law.' Of course, PETA's idea of protecting animals would strip us of everything from our leather shoes to the milk in our breakfast cereal (not to mention bacon and eggs). PETA president Ingrid Newkirk has called human beings the 'biggest blight on the face of the earth.'"

Get ready to see the real PETA, warts and all . ... Showtime will air the program at 10pm (all time zones) on April 1. ... This might be the only kind of publicity PETA's self-styled 'total press sluts' would prefer to avoid. The group's radical zealots may wish this were just an April Fool's joke, but it's not."



Andrew Bolt gives details of how Australia's universities and public broadcasters acclaim the views of Far-Leftists who believe that Israeli children and other innocents deserve to die.

Leftist antisemitism: "Anti-semitism is a virus and it mutates. To claim Jews cause their own suffering by failing to denounce Israeli policy is a revival of an old hatred"

Those delightful Arabs again: "More than 100 women have been raped in a single attack carried out by Arab militias in Darfur in western Sudan. ... "It is more than just a conflict. It is an organised attempt to do away with a group of people," he said...Arab militias, backed by the government, have driven hundreds of thousands from their homes"

It comes as no surprise to learn that John Kerry, who hates to take one position on an issue when he can take two or three, has come down strongly in favor -- and strongly against -- US policy in Cuba.

The Lolita story was first created by a Nazi. Makes sense: Nazis were Leftists and Leftists have no moral restraints.

Seeing Easter is coming up, I have put up on my recipe site a recipe that could be useful for family reunions -- a recipe for Greek Easter Lamb. The Greeks really know how to do lamb. See here.


The Left have always wanted more spent on welfare and made "Fascism" a swear-word. President Bush deposed a brutal Fascist dictator and sponsored a big expansion of welfare. But instead of being admired by the Left, he is hated with a passion. What does that tell you about the Left? It tells you that they have no principles at all: That everything they have ever claimed to stand for is fake.

Three more examples of Leftist dishonesty: They blame the 9/11 attacks on "poverty" in the Islamic world. Yet most of the attackers were Saudis and Saudi Arabia is one of the world's richest countries! They also say that they oppose racism yet support "affirmative action" -- which judges people by the colour of their skin! They say that they care about "the poor" but how often do you hear them calling for the one thing that would bring about a worldwide economic boom in poor countries -- the USA and the EU abandoning their agricultural protectionism? Leftists obviously care more about conservative farmers than they do about the poor!

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