A brilliant article at The Nautilus declares that the genius is dead.The premise is wrong, but the content of the article is, for the most part, right. The cult of genius as a dominant cultural force is dead, of course, but the cult of genius as a remnant cultural force is not.
The author himself demonstrates how this is true in his observation that the genius replaced the saint. But why did the genius replace the saint? And why didn't the genius actually replace the saint (we still have people who believe in saints, after all)?
The idea of genius is a product of a particular psychosocial level of complexity. In the same way that the level that gave us guilt as a driving social regulator gave us the saint, the level that gives us responsibility as a driving social regulator also gave us the genius as the exemplar of what it means to be human. This being the case, one would expect to see different exemplars at each level of psychosocial complexity. And we do.
The tribal level gives us Caregivers.
Shame cultures give us Heroes.
Guilt cultures give us Saints.
Responsibility cultures give us Geniuses.
Collective Guilt cultures give us something tantamount to Secular Saints.
Given that the above have all given us not just particular psychologies, but fully developed societies as well, the exemplars are easy to identify. But we should see a pattern here. Caregivers, Saints, and Secular Saints are similar types; so, too, are Heroes and Geniuses. We would expect, then a Naturalistic Principles culture to give rise to something similar to a Hero or Genius (given people at this level tend to be interdisciplinary, perhaps a Universal Genius?), and a Global Contextualism culture to give rise to something similar to a Caregiver/Saint (perhaps a Global Caregiver?).
So the genius has not gone away. (S)He has just been joined and superseded by the Collective Guilt culture and their pantheon of secular saints who fight for social justice. In fact, the "democratization" of "genius" is part and parcel of this psychosocial level, and how it dissipates the idea of genius. But those whose lives are regulated by Responsibility will of course continue to believe in the Genius, just like those in the Guilt cultures still believe in Saints and those in Shame cultures still believe in Heroes.
Friday, October 24, 2014
A brilliant article at The Nautilus declares that the genius is dead.The premise is wrong, but the content of the article is, for the most part, right. The cult of genius as a dominant cultural force is dead, of course, but the cult of genius as a remnant cultural force is not.
Posted by Troy Camplin at 9:18 AM
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
There is nothing like trying to engage someone whose morals are guided by collective guilt to really bring out the main features of that particular social regulator.
One of the main elements of collective guilt is that it is completely unprincipled. It is anti-foundational to the extreme, not even finding a foundation in our evolved psychologies (which they ultimately deny to even exist). Being unprincipled, such people do not engage in arguments, but rather move the goalposts around to make sure that you, their opponent, are in whatever is an oppressive, "privileged" group relative to themselves. Then they don't have to actually take your arguments seriously. You are just a mouthpiece for privilege and oppression.
This tactic goes back to the foundational philosophers of collective guilt -- Rousseau and Marx. Rousseau divided us into civilized (corrupt) and noble savage (uncorrupt). Marx of course divided us into bourgeoisie (corrupt) and proletariat (uncorrupt). If you could not see the truth of Rousseau's philosophy, it was because civilization had corrupted you. If you could not see the truth of Marx's philosophy, it was because you were bourgeoisie or were pacified by the opiate of religion. Of course, with Marx we also get the idea of a privileged class, and the egalitarian psychology has really run with that one of late.
What this has eventually turned into is the pantheon of privileged/unprivileged categories: bourgeoisie/proletariat, white/minority, men/women, 1%/99%, straight/GLBT, etc. Attempts to break down these categories are seen as the privileged attempting to enforce their privilege. Rather, inverting the categories is what's important. The "discovery" of "The White Racial Slur We've All Been Looking For" is prime evidence of this. It's less important to get people to stop using racial slurs than it is to find one for the privileged. This allows one to invert the categories, to declare what was "inferior" as "superior," and vice versa.
Except, we still end up with the idea that there is inferior and superior. We still end up with the idea of privilege. Rather than privileging the unprivileged, and vice versa, shouldn't we be trying to undermine the idea of privilege itself? To declare that you are not privileged simply because of your group membership, nor unprivileged (or underprivileged) because of some other group membership?
And consider the complete mess this makes of things? Am I privileged? I have a Ph.D. (privileged) and I'm "white" (privileged) and I'm male (privileged) and I'm heterosexual (privileged). But I was raised working class (unprivileged), I'm a member of the 99% (unprivileged) and I have Asperger's (unprivileged). And I have extreme minority political and social viewpoints (unprivileged). Also, my support for women's rights, gay rights, the elimination of political privileges for the wealthy, etc. should also make me an honorary member of the unprivileged. Except that my extreme minority political viewpoints -- not being postmodern leftist -- preclude that. Thus, I get accused of speaking from a position of privilege. Which would be a huge surprise to pretty much everyone who actually knows me.
My rejection of this perspective lies neither in thinking that there is no such thing as privilege, nor in declaring that white, heterosexual males are themselves a victim class -- victimized by postmodern leftist ideology, the dominant ideology of the day. Classifying white, heterosexual males as victims is absurd on the face of it. Thinking of them as a coherent group is also absurd, though. Many are privileged -- and many are privileged precisely because they are wealthy, white, and male. But many other people are privileged for a variety of other reasons. Is the President of the United States not privileged because he's not white? Give me a break! Declaring the most powerful man in the world a victim is absurdity upon absurdity.
What we need to realize is that privileges are primarily granted and reinforced by our political institutions. And by many of our social institutions, whose structures are intimately influenced by our political institutions. The bureaucratization of our institutions is downright harmful to many people -- especially those of us on the autism spectrum, who find active discrimination against us by those institutions. We do horribly in situations calling for endless meetings and communal gatherings, wanting rather to just be left alone to work. Outside of Silicon Valley, there are few employment opportunities in which work is actually placed above socializing. These are social institutions that privilege neurotypicals over those on the autism spectrum. I have experienced it repeatedly. In this particular case, it is not necessarily direct government influence (direct granting of privilege to particular individuals or groups), but influence on the structures of other institutions in the creation of more, larger bureaucracies.
The problem ultimately lies in people treating others as members of groups rather than as individuals. I find it hard to believe that reinforcing group-based thinking is the way to get out of group-based thinking; it is as absurd as thinking that finding a racial slur for privileged whites is the solution to eliminating racism.
Posted by Troy Camplin at 2:41 PM
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Many inner city cultures continue to be shame cultures. We see this in the demand that one be "respected" whether or not one has in fact acted in a respectable manner. The problems with having a large shame subculture in a more complex culture involve such things as discounting education and a kind of rebelliousness that leads to criminality. This is less of a problem if one enters into the shame culture as a young teenager and exist it in one's later teens than if one never exits the shame culture at all.
Of course, one cannot force others to emerge into a more complex psychosocial level. But that doesn't mean that there cannot be institutions which can move things along.
The Great Dionysia of Athens might act as a model for such an institution. This play competition was a product of the Greek shame culture, and was also at the same time an institution of the transition from the shame culture into the guilt culture. A new Great Dionysia as a model for an inner city community project would make use of the positive aspects of the kinds of psychologies that create the shame culture, while hopefully moving people out of shame and into guilt as a social regulator.
One of the main features of the Great Dionysia was that it was a competition. This taps into the competitive aspect of this psychological level. A New Dionysia would thus have to be set up as a set of competitions wherein the audience votes and prizes are given.
We could even set the festival up as the Great Dionysia was set up. There could be a day of songs and poetry -- sort of a combination of poetry-slam, singing and rap contest. Then there could be a day (or two or three) of serious plays, with the hope that shame-to-guilt culture tragedies would be written. Finally, there would be a day of comedies in which local leaders were made fun of by the plays (similar to Aristophanes' plays). This would allow for a combination of artistic expression and cultural/political criticism that was typical of the Great Dionysia and which helped drive cultural evolution in Athens.
The New Dionysia would also need to be set up financially in a similar way as the Great Dionysia. The entire thing could be funded by various nonprofits, but it is also important that there be patrons of the artists themselves. There would need to be a selection process to select the slate of plays, songs, raps, and poems, and it would have to be early enough in the year that the playwrights could get the actors they needed and have time to practice. This could end up being a community project, with many people involved in creating sets and costumes. It could thus make our inner city communities more like communities, which would only benefit those communities, since a community of people who see themselves as a community don't put up with crime, etc.
Now, all we need are New Dionysias to pop up around the country in our cities. Who wants to get started?
Posted by Troy Camplin at 2:44 PM
There are many historical examples one can give of cultures dominated by any given social regulator. Tribes are regulated by familial/tribal disappointment. Ancient Greece was of course a shame culture. The Roman Empire was a guilt culture (as is Jewish culture and Islamic culture). The Modernist West was a responsibility culture. The Postmodern West is a collective guilt culture.
We get the emergence of a shame culture when there are too many people around to be regulated by family alone. When your social networks become too big because you are living in city-states, friends, colleagues, and important strangers' opinions of you begin to matter. Perhaps not coincidentally, these cultures also tend to be polytheistic (this may involve literal, identifiable religions, but it may also involve various "idols" such as we see in teen culture). The problem with historical polytheism is that there are conflicting values in the different gods. This means one cannot always know what the gods want, meaning you cannot rely on them as a guide to action. Social life is thus the most important social regulator. In literature, The Iliad and The Odyssey portray shame cultures at their strongest.
In Athens during the tragic age, it seems the Greeks were starting to move into a guilt culture. Euripides' Hippolytus investigates this transition. Phaedra is feeling guilty about her feelings for her stepson, Hippolytus. However, she is feeling shame in equal measure. The problem is that you only feel shame if people know what you have done or how you feel. All you have to do is behave yourself or make sure nobody knows, and you won't feel shame. However, guilt compels you to confess your sins. Thus, after Phaedra is compelled by guilt to confess her feelings to her nurse, she immediately feels shame because the nurse knows. The nurse, being firmly embedded in the shame culture, thinks that if Phaedra has told her about her feelings, that she must not be ashamed of those feelings (perhaps thinking Phaedra's insistence on her shame is a show), so she promptly tells Hippolytus. Phaedra commits suicide precisely in order to avoid the shame she fears will arise from her nurse's actions. Had Phaedra felt only shame, she would have never told the nurse; had she only felt guilt, she would have told the nurse, but she would not have been compelled to kill herself. It is the combination of shame and guilt present in Phaedra that creates the situation where she thinks the only bearable way out is suicide and her damning letter.
There were many things happening in Athens that may have been pushing it toward becoming a guilt culture. The tragedies were being performed at the Great Dionysia; Dionysus may have begun to emerge as a monotheistic god (given the fact that Dionysus had pretty much all of the traits of all of the other gods, such a transition to Dionysus would make sense). Plato was also active in the proliferation of philosophy at the time, which in many ways sought to provide an external set of principles by which all people could live (a necessary condition for feeling guilt). The Athenian democracy itself may have provided those external principles, in much the same way as Roman Law provided the external principles of the Roman Republic/Empire. Virgil's Aeneid portrays the Romans as a guilt culture from their founding.
In Rome during the age of Seneca, Rome was going through a transition from a guilt culture to a responsibility culture through the influence of Stoicism. Stoicism may not have quite reached the average Roman citizen, but it was spreading through the upper classes, even reaching an emperor -- Marcus Aurelius. Stoicism in many ways challenged the authority of Roman Law, since man's reason and nature's laws are believed to be supreme -- meaning each could be used to challenge the law and, thus, the foundation of the Roman guilt culture itself. It is likely this challenge to the authority of the law that kept Seneca in trouble with the ruling authorities, even if Nero's decision to have Seneca commit suicide was likely idiosyncratic.
It is probably no coincidence that Seneca seemed to have written his tragedies while in exile. That was a clear indication his world view was in conflict with the majority culture. Investigating this conflict in the ways social regulations come into conflict is the theme of the Phaedra/Hippolytus myth, so it is also no surprise Seneca wrote a Phaedra play. But because Seneca was writing about the transition from guilt to responsibility rather than from shame to guilt, the story could not maintain its complete structure. Phaedra kills herself much later in Seneca's version than in Euripides' precisely because the conjunction of guilt and responsibility cannot take place until after Hippolytus' death. Phaedra has to feel guilty about Hippolytus' death, and she has to take responsibility for her false accusation before she can have the impetus to commit suicide.
Of course, the Stoic-driven responsibility culture did not manage to fully emerge and take over because of the spread of Christianity. Christianity, with its external principles rooted in God's law, was of course a guilt culture. The Catholic Church developed several institutions that feed into and fostered that guilt culture -- the most obvious being confession. The need to confess was given an institution within the church itself. The exemplary literary work of the Christian guilt culture is of course Dante's Divine Comedy. It is no coincidence that Dante has himself led through Hell and Purgatory by Virgil, the author of another epic poem rooted in guilt culture.
It is also no coincidence that when Europe exited guilt culture and entered responsibility culture, reason and natural law, that Seneca and the other Stoics were rediscovered and influenced the emergent culture and literature. Seneca's tragedies influenced both Shakespeare and Racine, even if it was only the latter who wrote a Phaedra for the times.
Posted by Troy Camplin at 11:21 AM
Thursday, October 16, 2014
The most recent social regulator is what I'm going to call "global contextualism." It is part of the holistic (turquoise) psychological level in the Gravesean model. It builds on naturalistic principles, adding to this internal regulator an external aspect -- the global network and the local contexts are taken into consideration alongside (as variations on) naturalistic principles. Naturalistic principles see the unity under the variety of human cultural expressions; global contextualism sees the variety which emerges from those universals and the networks of people and the long-tern consequences of various actions within those varying contexts.
The global contextualist sees the big picture, over space and time, taking into consideration all the network effects (including butterfly effects). This may appear to be "unprincipled," but it still has naturalistic principles underlying it. And, practitioners having second tier psychologies, lower levels are not rejected, but fully integrated. They also can resolve some of the paradoxes that emerge in naturalistic principles.
Let us take, for example, the moral issue of whether or not one should cheat on one's wife.
The tribalist would argue against disappointing one's family. But of course, this would vary based on cultural norms. One may not disappoint one's family if one has lovers.
Those who feel shame would only worry about whether or not they would get caught.
Those who feel guilt wouldn't cheat if the external principles included fidelity to one's spouse.
Those who feel responsibility wouldn't cheat so long as they could continue to live up to their responsibilities toward their spouses. That responsibility may include fidelity itself, but it may not.
Those who feel collective guilt may see cheating as disrespecting the spouse as a man or woman, though if something were arranged between the two beforehand, such that there were no disrespect of the spouse as a member of the opposite sex, that would be fine.
For those who feel naturalistic principles, there are natural tendencies toward loyalty, and one understands that cheating leads to lack of trust, which reduces the spousal bonds. However, there is also understood to be a tendency to be mildly polyandrous; meaning, a spouse and a lover.Relying on internal information is not enough to necessarily tip the scales one way or another, though other values will certainly come into play in making the decision.
The global contextualists consider all pathways before them and decide based on that. It is unlikely that cheating would result in a pathway that would benefit oneself, one's spouse, the potential lover, whatever if any children are involved, social relations, familial relations, etc. This external network information helps one to tip the scales toward loyalty rather than mildly polyandrous tendencies.
Of course, as noted above in the discussion of naturalistic principles, other values necessarily come into play, so things are hardly so clear-cut as laid out above. And of course, it should also be clear from the discussion above that things are hardly clear-cut at any of the levels themselves. The nature of one's culture matters (and the nature of one's spouse). What changes is how one considers what actions to take.
Of course, while global contextualism is the latest to emerge, it's hardly the endpoint. Whatever emerges next will require investigation once it emerges. But we can only investigate that which already exists.
Posted by Troy Camplin at 3:56 PM
The earliest social regulator -- found in tribes, and founding all of our social regulations -- is familial disappointment, which is extended to the extended family of the tribe as a whole (and relegated, in larger, more complex societies, to the household). Rituals are also adopted to aid in social regulation, since rituals allow people to enter and exit private and/or sacred spaces. The regularities of rituals allow social regulation by helping people understand what they need to do when. However, even with this, the rituals do not in and of themselves punish you for violating them. That falls to one's relatives.
We see direct familial interactions regulating social behaviors in the social mammals as a whole, but with humans we get the added element of disappointment. Disappointment requires language to clearly communicate it. The last thing most people want to do is disappoint their parents or other family members. That extends to one's spouse when one marries.
When a society (or a person) enters into shame as the primary regulator, though, familial disappointment fades fast. In the U.S., people tend to enter into shame as social regulator when they are 12 or 13. Have you ever met a 12 or 13 year old American who cared about whether or not he or she was disappointing his or her parents? Of course not. But they were concerned with what their friends thought. When they emerge into guilt and then responsibility, etc., they often loosen up on familial disappointment as a regulator (even if they do tend to more strongly reject the level they just emerged out of -- those who enter into guilt thus reject shame; those who enter into responsibility reject guilt; those who enter into collective guilt reject responsibility -- though this latter one, being egalitarian, also tends to reject all others in equal measure).
We would thus expect shame cultures to be more abusive toward family members, particularly spouses. And while we would not expect those regulated by collective guilt to be explicitly abusive, we would expect a weakening of family structures and perhaps an increase in divorce as a result. Those who feel guilt and responsibility are more likely to return to feeling familial regulations more strongly, so we would expect to see support for "family values" and stronger family structures in general.
We can thus see that these levels are not necessarily clear-cut and explicit. New levels contain the levels below -- those feelings don't go away once they emerge, though they may be suppressed to varying degrees. Healthy families likely have strong familial regulations in place, even if different members are at different psychological levels and thus use different social regulators.
Posted by Troy Camplin at 3:07 PM
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
The reports of what was happening at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas by the nurse's union highlight the dangers of the bureaucratic mindset. The bureaucratic mindset is that of egalitarian (green) psychology. Which means that nobody was making a decision, because nobody wanted to be held responsible for what might happen. I promise you that while Duncan was surrounded by other patients, there was a nice, long, pointless meeting taking place to decide what ought to be done.
Nice, long, pointless meetings is the main feature of egalitarian social interactions. The meetings are found in our schools, in our governments, in our corporations, and in our hospitals. In our schools, they only waste teachers' time and make teachers' jobs impossible and work to ensure our students get the worst education possible. In our governments, they only waste tax money and ensure nothing gets done until and unless everyone is on board (including the corporations attending). In our corporations, they only waste time and money and make businesses less efficient and their products more expensive.
But when this happens in our health care system, illness spreads and people die.
And that is what we are seeing here in Dallas. The disastrous bureaucratic mindset will actually kill people when it comes to health care. It is one thing for it to interfere with things like preventative care or seeing patients who later, quietly, die. It is quite another for it to cause an epidemic.
Had there been someone in that hospital who took responsibility for what was going on, Duncan would probably still be alive, and the two people who contracted Ebola would have likely never done so. Instead, when one person did in fact try to take responsibility, "A nursing supervisor faced resistance from hospital authorities when the supervisor demanded that Duncan be moved to an isolation unit."
The issue is that the majority egalitarian psychologies in charge at the hospital see those who express responsibility as morally inferior and, therefore, someone it is okay to ignore. The facts of the matter don't matter, only that the right person with the right attitude is making the suggestion. But in a psychological level that rejects responsibility (because it is the level immediately below that level) and opts rather for collective guilt, the recommendations of someone preaching responsibility are specifically going to be ignored.
The nursing supervisor was not speaking the right language to the hospital authorities. That is why Duncan died, and that is why two more people have Ebola here in Dallas.
Posted by Troy Camplin at 9:19 AM
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Writers are attracted to some stories over others because of the kinds of things those stories highlight. An example of this is the myth of Hippolytus and Phaedra, which investigates the issue of transitioning from one kind of social regulation to another.
Euripides' version of the story is a tragedy that takes place in the transition from shame culture to guilt culture, and it highlights the danger of this transition in the actions of Phaedra. In The Phaedra Syndrome: Of Shame and Guilt in Drama, Albert Gerard argues that the modern sense of guilt was "clearly beyond the reach of Euripides' Phaidra," since "This sense of guilt has two components: remorse and atonement" (34). While it is clear that Phaedra is feels remorse for her feelings toward Hippoltyus, it is hardly atonement which drives her self-punishment.
If we consider the fact that guilt is internal and that it compels one to want to confess one's sins (internal desires are also sins with guilt, while with shame, only actions are sins), we can see why the transition is particularly dangerous. In the play, Phaedra feels guilt for desiring her step-son, Hippolytus. This guilt compels her to confess to her Nurse and the chorus, and her nurse in turn tells Hippolytus. Her feelings being exposed, Phaedra's feelings of shame compel her to commit suicide. With either guilt or shame, Phaedra would have been fine. With guilt alone, she wouldn't have felt the shame that would have driven her to commit suicide, and with shame alone, she wouldn't have told the nurse, and her failure to act would have resulted in a failure to feel shame. It was the combination of the two that was fatal.
While Euripides' Phaedra is driven by guilt to confess to the Nurse and chorus, then driven by shame to commit suicide after the confession exposes her shameful feelings, Seneca "Makes his Phaedra responsible for whatever she says and does."
By transferring to her some of the Greek Nurse's flashes of cynical insight and pragmatic advice her enhances the audience's perception of her unwavering awareness of right and wrong: she embarks on her evil course of action in full knowledge that she is violating the rational-ethical principles that should govern human conduct. (Gerard, 27-28)It is on rational-ethical principles which the very idea of responsibility is founded. So if the Nurse is trying to push Phaedra toward rational-ethics, she is trying to push her toward responsibility. This is thus a tragedy dealing with the transition from guilt to responsibility -- which probably explains the strong interest in Seneca's work during the Renaissance transition from a guilt culture to a responsibility culture. Seneca's Phaedra thus moves from guilt to responsibility. She recognizes her own responsibility for Hippolytus' death, and it is this recognition of responsibility that causes her to commit suicide as punishment to herself for her sin.
Seneca's Phaedra is safe from outward punishment, but not from "the built-in sanction, the voice of conscience, the inner sense of guilt in a soul tormented by the gnawing awareness of her own crime" (35). That is, she has clearly gotten away with everything such that nobody is going to punish her for what she's done or felt. Were this a shame culture in Seneca's version, Phaedra would have never committed suicide after Hippolytus' death. This is why she has to commit suicide in Euripides' version before Hippolytus' death. Yet, with guilt, Phaedra has not done anything before Hippolytus' death that would warrant her own death.
Gerard argues that
The suicide of Euripides' Phaidra was a clear example of shame-culture behaviour: her sole concern was to preserve her reputation. The suicide of Seneca's Phaedra is an early example of guilt-culture behaviour: repentance is the gist of her final rhesis, atonement is the purpose of her ultimate action. (35)and that
The tragedy of Seneca's Phaedra signals the triumph of a guilt ethic based on the primacy of reason and the inner sanctions of conscience just as the tragedy of Euripides' Phaidra had illustrated the failure of a shame ethic based on the primacy of reputation and the outward sanctions of society. (37)Except Gerard is not quite right, as we have seen. Gerard is confusing guilt and responsibility, which are two different social regulators. More, it is the transition between the two that drives Phaedra's decision in each case. Euripides' Phaedra slipped back into shame from guilt, and that slippage resulted in her committing suicide. Seneca's Phaedra is on the transition between guilt and responsibility. She is encouraged by the Nurse to take responsibility for her actions, and the combination of guilt-driven conscience and reason-driven responsibility is what drove Phaedra to commit suicide after she caused Hippolytus' death. The recognition that she was the responsible cause of the bad action is what makes it clear that this is a factor.
We can thus see that Seneca's Phaedra is a proper tragedy insofar as it is driven by the transition from one form of social regulation to another; it is their co-dominance which drives each Phaedra's suicide. Without the transition, there would be no tragedy, since there would be no internal conflict making living impossible.
Of course, historically, the budding responsibility culture surrounding Stoicism retreats in the face of emergent Christianity. It will be over 1000 years before the responsibility culture returns, with the European Renaissance. With it will return the influence of Seneca and the return of tragedy in Shakespeare and Racine. It is perhaps no coincidence that it is during this time that we get a new version of Phaedra, from Racine.
Posted by Troy Camplin at 9:55 AM
Monday, October 13, 2014
Guilt is a form of social regulation in which one is internally regulated in relation to external principles -- more often than not, religious principles. This is beyond being concerned with what others think, as one sees with shame. Religious principles transcend the merely human, while shame is deeply embedded in the human. Responsibility, which follows guilt, is equally deeply embedded in the human. As Kimura observes, "Responsibility is the individual’s ability to respond to any situation
in life as the cause, not as the victim, of the situation." That is, the human being is the cause of the situation that that human being is in and is the cause of that individual's future. Shame, guilt, and responsibility are "conservative" forms of social regulation.
The social regulator that emerges after responsibility is collective guilt. It is the common trope of the progressive left. While traditional guilt requires an external source of principles that acts to unify the group into a collective (think of Catholic Medieval Europe), collective guilt is collective first and foremost. People are placed into groups, and the situation of those groups are compared. If there is a group who is doing better than some other group, and we combine it with the assumption that the world is a zero sum game (an evolved psychological trait it takes effort to overcome), the result is the conclusion that that inequality came about due to exploitation from the group which is doing better relative to everyone else.
Thus, men should feel guilty relative to women; whites should feel guilty relative to other racial/ethnic groups; the rich should feel guilty relative to the middle class and poor (and the middle class should feel guilty relative to the poor); etc. Those who are working to rectify these disparities are exempt from collective guilt and are made saints. Thus the feminist logic that a government almost entirely controlled by men can and ought to take care of women; thus the African-American progressives' logic that a government almost entirely controlled by whites can and ought to take care of African-Americans; thus the egalitarians' logic that a government entirely controlled by rich people ought to be given more power to redistribute wealth.
A major difference between traditional guilt and collective guilt is that principles are not involved in the latter. There is a rejection of natural laws, whether those natural laws come from a theological source or from a natural source. Human beings have no nature, there are no cultural universals, and social orders have no rules. The result is unprincipled guilt -- a sense of guilt with no foundation in anything other than a sense that, because you or others are doing better than others, you ought to feel bad. But why ought you to feel bad? It is the feeling -- the only "principle" left in your repertoire -- that the world is a zero sum game, meaning your advantage is necessarily as the expense of others. But this notion that the world is a zero sum game is a primitive evolved trait. It is ironic that those who call themselves "progressives" are basing almost all of their ideas on a very primitive part of their evolved psychology. Of course, progressives would equally deny that this is a factor, since they deny human nature.
If the world is a zero sum game, the only fair outcome is equal distribution of resources. This idea is the closest thing to a principle one comes to with the egalitarian psychology. But while I demonstrated the foundation of this principle, egalitarian logic dictates that egalitarianism is itself less a principle than an ideal goal. Using this logic, the progressive can argue that they are future-focused (progressive) rather than foundational (and, therefore, "conservative"). Thus the source of their antifoundational arguments.
Out of this idea of collective guilt, we can also begin to understand politically correct thinking. Political correctness is based entirely on collective guilt. Certain groups can say and do things other groups cannot. Political correctness is designed to reform the group by making it impossible for members of that group to say and do certain things. Only those who need to feel guilt need to be reformed.
With traditional guilt, it is important that one protect one's external principles from competitors. This is why we get things like the Inquisition and religious radicalism. Given that the nature of guilt -- even collective guilt -- requires something external to feel guilty about violating, it makes sense to want to protect that external source. It is, after all, what makes you and others virtuous and thus works to create community. Anything that threatens that threatens the very structure of the community. This is why Islamic radicals hate Christians and Jews and why Medieval Christians hated Jews and Muslims. And it is why progressives sincerely see conservatives as evil villains. It's not enough that they be wrong; no, they have to be a poison to society itself. At its most extreme you get the purges of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. We continue to hear people argue that these are extreme examples, and in no way indicate what the "moderates" of these world views believe, while at the same time we hear a discomforting silence from these moderates when these outcomes do in fact emerge. Idealists driven by guilt -- collective or traditional -- are among the most dangerous people on earth.
Of course, we must keep in mind that while collective guilt emerges as a social regulator, that does not mean that people do not still feel a sense of responsibility, traditional guilt, shame, or familial bonds. Collective guilt is built on top of these. Further, a society in which collective guilt has emerges as the dominant form of social regulation will still have people in it who are socially regulated by responsibility, traditional guilt, shame, and familial bonds. This is bound to create social conflicts among these different groups with different dominate social regulators. For those who feel collective guilt is insufficient as a social regulator -- because of the inherent paradoxes of this world view, or because they learn some evolutionary psychology and/or basic economics, for example -- naturalistic principles emerge.
Posted by Troy Camplin at 10:24 AM