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Why ideologies harm individuals (thomasprosser.substack.com)
80 points by ContrarianBrit 10 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 121 comments



The author seems bright and I'm sure he realizes this, but it is of course true that (what I assume to be) the premise of his article--that individual thriving is most important--is itself a core component of modern liberal ideology.


> The author seems bright and I'm sure he realizes this, but it is of course true that (what I assume to be) the premise of his article--that individual thriving is most important--is itself a core component of modern liberal ideology.

Yeah, exactly. Ideology is baked into pretty much everything, so when you try to get away from it, you end up just finding the ideology that's so core to you that you don't even (fully) realize what it is.

The other thing to watch out for is people who push "non-ideological" solutions. They're usually just trying to bake their own ideology into that unexamined part of your brain.


> Ideology is inescapable. To some extent, everyone is under its influence. But that does not mean that all are equally ideological

The author makes this point very plainly. The 'well it's all ideology anyway' take is reductive and uses relativism to (poorly) justify people supporting ideas that are harmful to both themselves and to society.

In the same way that acknowledging that human conflict is inevitable doesn't justify violence, the existence of ideology doesn't justify structuring one's entire life around it.


> justify people supporting ideas that are harmful to both themselves and to society.

Harmful according to whom? It's safe to assume people don't support ideas they think are harmful to themselves and society.

What irks me is that the "ideology is intrinsically bad" idea is historically firmly part of conservative ideology. One early formulation is Burke's criticism of the french revolution.

I think pointing this out is not relativism.


Harmful according to other ideologies conlficting in the mind of the same person.

You think murder is morally wrong. You think some govt policy is so important that when govt kills people while it is carrying out the policy, the ends justify the means. Ideology is what killed those people.


Is that a bad trolley problem where you only tell us the consequence of one side of the decision, and then use that to tell us that even thinking about taking that decision is is bad?


Seems like a loaded question. You can't imagine govt policies that kill people but do not save anyone in return?


> You can't imagine govt policies that kill people but do not save anyone in return?

Maybe, but I certainly can't reduce my thinking about ideology to considering an example featuring comic villains.


I'd call that a "no", actually. Or just a bad faith argument.

I left it vague so people of both sides could relate to how it fits the other side's hypocrisy. But I suppose this also allows people who are looking for a fight to imagine that it fits their own hypocrisy and get defensive.


I don't think it's an attempt to justify things as much as an attempt to question whether the author is making a real point. He suggests that we should "adopt flexible stances, mixing traditions", rather than "adopting rigid and extreme positions", but almost everyone honestly believes this is what they're doing. (I would argue that "rigid and extreme positions" is just what it looks like from the outside when someone's mixing in a tradition you don't understand.)

I could imagine someone saying that we should strive to live off of vibes, never having or acting on ideas about how the world should be, but he doesn't seem to be arguing that.


But liberal humanism /is/ an ideology and denying that gets you further from the truth. You can accept that as your ideology or you can say "actually this is just factual reality" but then you're being a closed-eyes ideologue just like the author. It's OK to be ideological because ideology is just the axioms you choose. If you think that equality is good or bad (in some specific situation like access to resources) that's an ideological stance. There's no "non ideological" position.

Of course there are better or worse ideologues (and blind ideologues tend to be the most insufferable because they believe they're non ideological but turn out to just be neoliberals), but nobody is non ideological.


> In the same way that acknowledging that human conflict is inevitable doesn't justify violence, the existence of ideology doesn't justify structuring one's entire life around it.

That analogy is pretty loaded, I think. I doubt people making it would take issue with someone deeply involved in a charitable cause and spending their life to relieve people from their issues. Likewise, I doubt people making that analogy would consider themselves deeply invested in ideology, while, in fact, almost everyone is almost inescapably embedded in a set of dominant ideologies.


> you end up just finding the ideology that's so core to you that you don't even (fully) realize what it is.

I haven't (yet) read him but I think Gramsci wrote about stuff like this in a very detailed way. From the wiki page [1] (because, again, I haven't yet read him, maybe there's a gramscian in here who can come up with better quotes):

> The bourgeoisie, in Gramsci's view, develops a hegemonic culture using ideology, rather than violence, economic force, or coercion. Hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the "common sense" values of all and thus maintain the status quo.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Gramsci


The author recognizes that in the last paragraph:

> Ideology is inescapable. To some extent, everyone is under its influence. But that does not mean that all are equally ideological; thinking people can adopt flexible stances, mixing traditions.


Yup. As soon as you think you're "non-ideological" at that point you're fully ensconced in ideology, because your beliefs are so invisible to you that you mistake them for reality. Zizek beats this drum a lot. He did a very entertaining documentary on the subject called The Pervert's Guide to Ideology, examining ideology through the lens of various classic films. You can see a fun excerpt here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVwKjGbz60k


> Yup. As soon as you think you're "non-ideological" at that point you're fully ensconced in ideology

I don't think this is the case in every instance at all.

I think an individual can strive to scrutinise their beliefs, wrestle with their own conscience and try to come to conclusions based on scientific observation, where appropriate, as much as possible.

A person who is "non ideological" can be just that.


People are quite good at lying to themselves about how objective, rational, and scientific their thoughts & opinions are, yes. Science is itself prone to ideology. See people being attracted to beautiful, simple theories.


Well, the point of the scientific method is that it isn't prone to ideology.

If those beautiful theories don't work, then they're abandoned.

The point remains that there are people who strive to avoid cognitive biases and self delusion, see Cartesian doubt.

The claim to be non ideological doesn't always mean the person is the most ideological. It can just actually mean the person is striving to be non ideological.


The scientific method does not give an account of why a given theory must be accepted or rejected. That process is ideological - and no, Popperian Falsification isn’t used, update your understanding of this phenomenon (science) you love so much. Read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and join us in the post-1960 understanding of science.

To give you a taste: if falsification of theories is grounds for rejecting them, all theories must be rejected at all times. There are always - always - some phenomena that are not explicable with current theories. Much of the practice of normal science is in coming up with an explanation of these phenomena using the current theory, not coming up with new theories. Coming up with new theories is an extremely rare practice not done by most scientists. So how do you tell whether a given anomaly will eventually be described by the current theory, or will remain inexplicable until the formation of a new theory? You cannot. New theories also have many more unexplained phenomena when they are first articulated, since not as much work has been put into conforming observation to theory (if that last sentence seems backward to you, you probably don’t know how science is actually practiced). So what grounds does a scientist have for choosing a new anomaly-ridden theory rather than an old anomaly-ridden theory? The process is in part ideological and has nothing - I repeat - NOTHING to do with the scientific method. Emerging theories are chosen by scientists with a high risk tolerance using not a small amount of faith. And many times this bet doesn’t pan out: the theory eventually dies and considerably sets back their career prospects, as all the time they spent conforming observation to theory (again, the practice of normal science) is completely discarded.

The use of “theory” in the above paragraph is probably different from how you think of the meaning of the word. This is analogous to how new theories work: they aren’t just a refinement of previous theories, they actually explain the world in a novel way using different language, occasionally the same words with wildly different definitions (for example, Newtonian mass vs. Einsteinian mass). The author Thomas Kuhn often uses the word “paradigm” in the way I’ve used theory up above to help avoid this confusion. Incidentally, that book is why the term paradigm became popular.


THIS! Thanks for saying this.

Claiming to be "non-ideological" is the most ideological statement possible:

not only you have your own ideas but you claim to be "neutral" while seeing everybody else as biased.


My decisive test to distinguish an idea from an ideology: “Does it matter if a person dies as a result of this idea”

“Does it matter if a poor person dies as a result of not finding a place to be employed in society” => Capitalist ideology

“Does it matter if a person dies as a result of not believing in Jesus” => Christian ideology (as opposed to simply being Christian)

“Does it matter if someone dies as a result of being vaccinated” => No? => Pro-vax ideology.

The opposite is true: “Does it matter if someone dies as a result of Covid” => No? => Antivax ideology.


People die a lot[1]. If we take the link at face value, 116 a minute. Do we save them all? If so, how? Do we start with biggest troublemakers? If so, Covid might not be THE problem to tackle[2].

[1]https://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/deaths-per-day

[2]https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/how-many-people-die-e...


Does it matter if a person dies as a result of a decision made twenty years ago? => define “matters”.


> “Does it matter if someone dies as a result of being vaccinated” => No? => Pro-vax ideology.

Honest question: Does the fact that the stats say far more people die from the unvaxxed disease than the vax, bear relevance to this?

Because otherwise it seems like you could apply this to anything. "Does it matter if someone dies as a result of being seatbelted?" => No? => Pro-seatbelt ideology


Let me try an argument and you can rebut it for my own edification, I'm a younger brother so perhaps view this as an argument by a younger brother who is exploring half formed ideas and trying to engage an older brother so I can be proved wrong (my older brothers usually prove me wrong irl):

Is it ideological to say that discrete minds have equality of type?

If one then says discrete minds with equality are logically treated with equality of type. Is that not a properly basic truth?

1+1 equaling 2 can be argued against (can't evrything) but the onus is on those who argue that 1+1 equals not 2.

Is basic counting ideological? Are all 1's not the same? Would it be strange to treat a 1 as if some particular 1 does not equal 1 or is a superior 1. I think definitions of 1 would have to be tortured to do so.

I'm not saying what 1 ought to do, I'm just saying form follows function, a tree is not equal to a wheel, they do not share similar form or function.

What moral argument does one have for a particular mind to forcibly coerce another mind. What argument is there for a greater 1?

This seems like this would no longer be describing the way reality is but the way someone views it "ought" to be.

I guess one could argue that minds don't have equality on the whole, but I think the burden of proof would have to fall on the person making such a claim. Maybe through the measurements of skull shape someone has irrefutably identified a superior qualia.


> Crucially, culture selects at group level, improving the fitness of groups. Because humans organize and compete in groups, successful ideas enhance group performance; the nature of the ideas is irrelevant.

You can be aware of how ideology does sacrifice individual good for group or cultural good, and be happy with that. Being aware of a dynamic doesn't necessarily mean that you support it's implicit values too! For example I don't really think my individual happiness per say is the ultimate good, because I don't last forever, but humanity, in some form, does. It's why I try to be a 'decent human' even when nobody is looking, because a world where people don't act like me is also a shitty place to be. A combination of individual and group preference. In the %20 saints %20 freeloader and %60 status-quo split of a human population, I'd probably be in the %20 saint category.

> Though ideologies define the terms of reality, scholars calling this decontestation, this is necessarily imperfect; reality is irreducibly complex.

Also ideology is ultimately necessary, it's a model of how the world works for an individual too. Even the smartest person needs to reduce reality to a model, since no human can really accurately understand all of it.

> But that does not mean that all are equally ideological; thinking people can adopt flexible stances, mixing traditions. Given the imperfections of ideology, I prefer this approach.

You can also try not to be strongly ideological, even when preferring the group, because it makes you a stronger player 'for the group'.


The author's critique seems mostly aimed at conspicuous ideology; when it becomes a public performance.


Bingo. This is just pure liberalism.


This association between "micro aggression" and "reverse cognitive behavioral therapy" seems pretty accurate to me.

I made up a game a couple of years ago called "Take it Personal", which is played between two people and in turn each person makes a statement, and it must express outrage about the last thing said. If you don't express outrage, you lose. There is always a path to outrage. It is an unpleasant game, but instructive.


Yes, and generally we must give cover to the aggressors because we need them on our side. Cognitive behavioral therapy is about adjusting the individual to society's demands. The individual must be made to tolerate indignity.


I have a great deal of sympathy for this argument, as one who sees speaking truth to power as one of the highest goods, and CBT (or the Buddhist concept of detachment) seems on its face a tool to pacify people - or better, to pacify themselves.

But in truth the emotional reactivity is itself a source of great suffering, and disables the person from taking real action anyway. In extreme cases, the reaction eclipses the original injustice entirely.

In the case of real indignity, what is better, to lose your shit and become angry, depressed, upset, for days or weeks, or to pause and recognize that its not about you, it's about them, and to consider what your options are for a response? Who is more powerful, the person who winces, and then stands up and speaks clearly and eloquently against the aggressor, or the person who crumbles?

CBT protects you from manipulation. Consider someone who's in emotional turmoil from something they've heard. Maybe they heard CRT is in their schools, or MS13 is moving into the house next door. Rather than encourage them to examine their emotions, and pause to examine the motive of the speaker, the speaker instead encourages the emotion further and offers "solutions" to these problems. It is a manipulation on a grand scale, and yields power. Or perhaps they've heard that racism is everywhere, all white are racists, all black people are victims, all men are violent. In this case the emotion is righteous indignation, greed, envy and an appeal to power, and is no less emotionally manipulative.


I'm going on your own example here of what kind of "cognition" we're dealing with: do you interpret a racially insensitive comment ("microaggression") as targeted and hostile ("personal"), or untargeted and oblivious ("impersonal")?

If you choose the latter as a kind of cognitive "assume good faith policy," you may "suffer" less emotionally. But your cognitive strategy makes you vulnerable to abuse. People can take advantage of your charitable assumptions. You may end up experiencing even more emotional suffering after that happens (and you might not even understand what happened afterward).

I'll also point out that the emotions go both ways here: if someone powerful offends you or someone else in this way, your reaction will be suppressed (however much) by fear at the thought of the retaliatory exercise of that power. This is by far the more powerful controlling emotion in the society at large. Not racial outrage or self-righteousness or anything like that.

I think you won't see CBT employed to control that emotion though.


> fear at the thought of the retaliatory exercise of that power.

You're not wrong. I agree that this is a risk. And in fact, the key risk, of this approach. It is very easy to post hoc rationalize away an aggression simply because it would be inconvenient to not, and you've lost that round.

As I write this I realize that my stance is fundamentally a pragmatic one, which does not deny the above error mode. Power is...powerful. It can really and materially hurt you. Therefore it makes sense to treat it with respect, even if not admiration. It is incredibly dangerous to tell people to to disrespect power, and show contempt for it. It is setting them up for a great deal of (unproductive) pain. Successfully challenging existing power is extremely difficult, and I would argue that emotional expression will, in general, not help you win. If you want to win, you must adopt an attitude of calm detachment, and pick a specific strategy, and execute.

CBT is a tool that helps victims avoid the cul-de-sac of emotional turmoil caused by an irritant. As such, it is quite useful as an agent of real change. There is an unpleasant element of "blaming the victim" to it. It is easy to attack the emotionally reactive actor, whether or not they are right. It would be nice if society at large could distinguish between "valid" and "invalid" emotional reactivity. However, at least in this place and time, calm non-reactivity is given a great deal more weight than the opposite, so it makes sense to encourage victims to control their emotions.


Controlling "cognition" in a way that causes you to ignore reality is the wrong way to control emotions.


I would love for this to be an actual game.


As an official member of the actual game declarers consortium... I must ask with what authority you deign make such an informal game classification! Join a council for goodness sake!

Please accept my condolences at your loss of this round.


How dare you sully the sanctity of the HN comment section with such a frivolous game!


I wonder - if HN moderation was by AI, would it be smart enough to see that this is not actually a flame war thread? :)


It's like those TV fireplaces.


There are a lot of comments saying that "avoiding ideology is an ideology" or "preferring individuals over groups is an ideology." These aren't very interesting observations, they don't match the contextual defenition of "ideology" we can infer from the author's usage, and they don't really move the discussion forward.

This quote (ignoring the appeal to a desire to be part of the "thinking people" group) is a more interesting point, in my reading, and I'd like to see more discussion about this:

> Ideology is inescapable. To some extent, everyone is under its influence. But that does not mean that all are equally ideological; thinking people can adopt flexible stances, mixing traditions. Given the imperfections of ideology, I prefer this approach.

It's the "flexible stances, mixing traditions" part that is interesting here.

10-20 years ago, at least in the US, I recall reading that "independent" was the fastest growing political alignment. How did the polarizing elements of society break that trend, and how can a diversity of ideas be restored?


> These aren't very interesting observations, they don't match the contextual defenition of "ideology" we can infer from the author's usage, and they don't really move the discussion forward.

If we need to start the discussion by agreeing to a flawed definition given by the author, the discussion isn't going to go very far, is it?

> 10-20 years ago, at least in the US, I recall reading that "independent" was the fastest growing political alignment. How did the polarizing elements of society break that trend, and how can a diversity of ideas be restored?

The wave of independents you talk about is just a mark of traditional parties failing to discuss issues that appeal to people. New political movements, which you call "polarizing" are a logical consequence of that.

> how can a diversity of ideas be restored?

Having polarizing debates doesn't mean there is no diversity. People can have polarizing views on plenty of topics. That's part of why so many people with radical ideas are at each other's throats on both side of the aisle.


This article talks more in depth about what Zizek means by ideology:https://iep.utm.edu/zizek/

I don't have the background to say if Zizek is misusing it, but on my extremely shallow reading I don't think he is.

And your dismissal would be seen as meta-ideological.


Assuming you're discussing my first point, I believe you read too much in it. The point is simply that refusing definitions is also constructive criticism that can move a discussion forward.


> > It's the "flexible stances, mixing traditions" part that is interesting here.

Do you have any thoughts on this part?


I would suggest that the ability to consider ideological standpoints with a detached interest is usually the sign that you are not personally on the hook about it. Of course, it is probably nice for someone to never find themselves on the hook, but at the same time, this kind of luxury is not available for everyone. For instance, someone having trouble paying the rent may resent wintertime evictions more personally than a homeowner. Likewise, a blue-collar worker may have a more personal position about globalization about than a software engineer.

I'm not sure we should view this luxury as a superior attitude.


Most Americans are politically independent and it's growing.

https://news.gallup.com/poll/388781/political-party-preferen...?


"Independent" is a rather vague term. Usually in the U.S. it means that one does not align with either of the approved dominant parties. So an "independent" may very well be a libertarian or a communist, ideologically speaking.


Sure, but as I quoted, "It's the "flexible stances, mixing traditions" part that is interesting here.

Why don't we see more of that?


My guess: you probably see it, but it is being put into a party political box pretty quickly.

If I as a independent free thinking person — which has never set a foot in the US — critizise a policy objectively and on rational grounds I can gurantuee you that people will call me out as a member of the opposite party, rather than enlighten me why what I said is flawed.

If anybody who opposes your parties views is (dis-)counted as part of the other party, you get an easy way out when someone's argument starts challenging your world view.

Also: Flexibility is in itself not a value. A flexible thinker can be one that honors the truth and enlightenment to such a degree they change their mind when the evidence shows they are wrong. Or a flexible thinker could be someone who always adjusts the facts to fit their story, because all they care about is winning — and of that you can see a lot. Flexibility is a necessity, but ultimately the goals count. Is your goal to make society better? To survive? To get rich? To tell the truth? To "show" the other side with a deep rooted (yet unreflected) passion?


My perspective is that the Overton window for politics in the U.S. is very narrowly defined between what I would consider to be two center-right parties, economically speaking.

If you had more of a political spectrum of representation/viability, then you'd probably see more political diversity as you do in many parliamentary governments around the world.

There does seem to be more of this emerging in the U.S., although it's still in very small pockets -- for example, you will find some socialist groups that intermix aspects of social conservatism or traditionalism with leftist economics.


Where are you looking? Seems like there's every political thing you could imagine all just on Twitter.


Terry Eagleton: "...nobody would claim that their own thinking was ideological, just as nobody would habitually refer to themselves as Fatso. Ideology, like halitosis, is in this sense what the other person has."


This article is a good summary, but I think it still doesn't drive home the point. I didn't really grasp ideology until I watched (don't wince) Slavoj Zizek's "The Pervert's Guide to Ideology." I understood the textbook version of the word, but seeing it explained over and over in multiple film contexts and then calling that back to history really drove home the point: how ideologies are an effective tool in manipulating humans. I highly recommend this film even though it is popular to both adore Zizek and dunk on him (like all people he has his faults).


One thing I connected with Zizek and this article is how ideology, to function best needs to leave good size "hole" in itself to allow each individuals to insert their own, personal, hopes, dreams and desires into. It needs to allow itself to be customizable so to speak. And that could be for good or for bad. People who are hurting, have lost control of their lives, have other difficulties often latch the most to ideologies. Ideologies which are based on hating, on being against something, centered on fighting or demonizing will attract and amplify negative aspect of people's personalities.


Zizek’s argument is that cynicism is the prevailing form of “ideology”. Cynicism is a position of doubt, skepticism, seeing through illusions, knowing better than the deluded masses. The view that everyone is manipulated while only you see the truth is the ultimate ideological position because it presupposes a neutral and objective position.

The linked article falls into this trap. It sees through “ideology” - meaning political theory - on the grounds that it oppresses the individual. The problem is that this itself a political ideology.


> The view that everyone is manipulated while only you see the truth is the ultimate ideological position

Except Zizek never claims that. Not everyone is claiming "only I see the truth and you are a sheep". Some of us are claiming we are all being manipulated and need to be aware: ourselves included.

I think it is disingenuous for you to make that straw-man, to claim people who say ideology is harmful somehow think they are better than everyone else because only they see the truth.

That only serves to put a spotlight on your own personal axe to grind.


If you remember from the documentary the analysis of the movie They Live, the protagonist puts on the glasses in order to see the truth. For Zizek, the putting on (not taking off) of the glasses is crucial. It is specifically not a gesture of unmasking:

“The key feature here is that to see the true nature of things, we need the glasses: it is not that we should put ideological glasses off to see directly reality as it is”: we are “naturally” in ideology, our natural, immediate, sight is ideological.”

https://www.lacan.com/essays/?page_id=397


I've been thinking about this for a day and thanks for pointing this out. I remember the scene well, as I've seen the film several times, but I didn't catch the distinction between putting glasses on and taking them off. As you quoted, clearly Zizek said this, but it just never registered this way.

However, I'm still having trouble internalizing your claim that the belief that you have to put on the glasses is in itself an ideology. How? Is it an ideology in the sense that anyone can apply it by saying, "Ah, you don't see the truth," where the truth can be whatever you say it is?

Wouldn't Zizek have noticed that? Or is it intentional since the entire film is about ideology, and that's kind of a perversion of ideology.


Well, it doesn't help that the word ideology is being used in different ways. In non-Marxist contexts, an ideology is a political theory: liberalism, socialism, fascism, etc. When Zizek uses the word, it is in the traditional Marxist sense of the beliefs and ideas that sustain capitalism, especially that persuade the working class to support capitalism. An ideological statement would be something like "rising tides lift all boats" to support cutting taxes for the rich.

Zizek uses the metaphor of parallax to explain ideology. Parallax is the phenomenon where a distant object's position seems to shift depending on the position of the viewer. Two people looking at the same object from different angles will see something different. Zizek's point is that this isn't an epistemic problem where one person is wrong (lying, deluded, etc.) and the other is right. The conflict is ontological—the parallax shift is part of reality itself.

The true ideological move is to claim that you've stepped back from the conflicting perspectives to a neutral, objective standpoint, some kind of middle ground where all differences are reconciled. This move is always epistemic, i.e. "Both sides have good points, but they're blinded by their beliefs and can't see how things really are." The truth is not a middle position halfway between two people who are looking out at a distant object and seeing different things due to parallax.

Zizek says the They Live glasses are like critique-of-ideology glasses, not because they show the that the "true" meaning behind advertising is "Obey", "Consume", etc. It's because they render the conflict visible. Ultimately, one is forced to pick a side-which is a political choice-because there is no neutral objective position.


It's kinda like the "Marxism problem" where the critique of capitalism has a lot to offer but the solutions are incredibly lacking. Just because capitalism is flawed doesn't mean that socialism is the answer.


I guess somebody should point out that “the primacy of individuals and/or the self” is itself an ideology. Maybe the author only means certain ideologies

Is a better title: “ideologies involving self-sacrifice involve self-sacrifice”? This revised title is admittedly less striking than the original


I think this quote best sums up how I feel about this:

“I already am eating from the trash can all the time. The name of this trash can is ideology. The material force of ideology makes me not see what I am effectively eating. It’s not only our reality which enslaves us- the tragedy of our predicament when we are within ideology is that when we think that we escape it into our dreams, at that point we are the most within ideology.”

Slavoj zizek


Just thinking, ideologies are mostly just what people invoke when they want to get their way. There are far more unprincipled opportunists than ideologues from what I've seen. In politics for example, we have leaders and challengers jumping on trends to try and divide people, get support, and get elected. We have vanishingly fewer principled actors involved (at least in outward behavior) who are choosing their political positions based on some defined ideology. There is always some loose alignment (left/right) but at least imo these have completely strayed from any original meaning or principles around liberal or conservative and are more like two positions defined as the opposite or each others designed as poles voters can be rallied around.

I'd argue the same is true in most kinds of activism, it's rarely principled, and more defined by some broad dislike of something that eventually causes some ideological principles to get parroted as justification.

All that to say, I think some ideology might be welcome


I think you can pick on some of the specific points in the essay, but the large picture is basically right.

You can often tell you're in an ideological debate when the same old points are trotted out over and over. Tax is theft, capitalism is oppression, that kind of stuff. When you talked to a person who has bought in, they always have an answer to everything, and it's the same rehearsed answer squished into whatever thing you're discussing each time: doing X reduces my freedom, having to do Y is the capitalists bullying everyone.

The thing that ideology really buys you is a complete weltanschauung. That in itself is dangerous. If you don't have any doubts about what you're thinking, you'll never change it. In fact, you won't even be thinking, just repeating, like times tables. Your fellow travelers will congratulate you when you make a comment they like, but it's like learning a playbook. It simply won't occur to you that you might be wrong, or that other people might have legitimate views.

The only way to wean yourself off this sort of non-thinking is to try to seek discomfort. I try to not label my thinking with common labels like capitalism, libertarianism, communism, and so on. Those words tend to mean a wide variety of things to people that they often can't articulate, and once you identify with them you'll be held to account for views that other people think you have that they nonetheless cannot fully explain. You yourself will not be able to fully explain them either, because intellectual history is pretty big and you can't cover everything. I try to just address whatever issue is at hand without tying it to a big idea that will then end up being the source of a stream of what-abouts.


> it's the same rehearsed answer squished into whatever thing you're discussing

It's a meme! It still may be it comes up at the relevant time and says the right thing for that time.

> If you don't have any doubts about what you're thinking, you'll never change it.

You're presuming there always has to be something more to think about. That isn't so.

> In fact, you won't even be thinking, just repeating, like times tables

The times table is an example of where you don't need to keep thinking.


I think the Russell Conjugation is, I have principles, you have ideologies, they have dogmas. Clearly dogmas harm individuals. So do the wrong set of principles. But does anyone care to argue that we shouldn't have principles? We should have principles, and also ideologies and dogmas, because those are different spins on the same thing.


The problem is when some consider their ideas even more important than people's lives. Like, in Communism, you could get jailed or killed for disagreeing with the party. Same thing with the Inquisition.


There are some ideas more important than lives. That’s why we fight wars.


Is that why? Wars tend to be fought, ostensibly at least, in the principle that fighting them ends/ruins fewer lives than not fighting them, and at least in many cases for the purpose of resource acquisition.

In any case, the mere fact that wars are sometimes fought does not begin to imply they're actually a good idea. So if you want to prove some ideas are more important than lives, rather than just that some people with power think so: try harder.


Interesting, looking at history, I'm not sure if "That’s why we fight wars" is valid at all - perhaps in some exceptions, but almost always not. The dominant reason for fighting wars has always been accumulating power and wealth, enforcing control and removing threats, all kinds of practical political reasons.

Often some ideas or ideologies were used to motivate people to support a war or to participate in it, but as a rule they were just a small part a reason for the war itself. For example, various religious conflicts in Europe almost always have very practical reasons for being started, and religious ideas being raised as an artificial justification and motivation; WW2 was not really fought over ideologies (even though it was often framed that way in propaganda), the allies would happily tolerate fascism and holocaust if Hitler had kept to his borders; and in modern times its obvious that people aren't willing to fight wars over ideas but are willing to do so for either minerals or internal fighting to see which "clan" will get to be in power.


And how many "just wars" were there, as objectively-reasoned as possible?


We mostly fight wars because of deflation (money is no longer circulating) or the inability to represent negative interest rates and a failed land ownership system. Once all people have a place to live in, equal access to resources and the ability to participate in the economy the average citizen doesn't want a war.

Of course there are more reasons. Political independence is probably the second most common reason for a war but as you move down this list, the war becomes less and less justifiable.

Also, nationalism is known for creating the bloodiest wars in recorded history, so be careful.


Your notion has a ring of truth and seems to be the strongest repudiation of this entire thread/post.


Ideology just means belief system. Everyone has one. It’d be impossible for a person to not have one. This is like saying “physics harms people”.


Claiming to not have any ideology is itself an ideology, but it’s a very dishonest one as it masquerades as absolute objectively. Sorry but you’re a human being like the rest of us, you see the world through the lens of the culture you’re marinating in, and the most honest position is to accept that as a starting point.


It just so happens that Wiley just released a new Non Sequitur, that addresses this very topic: https://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2022/01/16


This article is full of statement unsupported by evidence.

> Ideologies are associated with cognitive dissonance. This occurs when individuals hold conflicting beliefs, causing discomfort and motivating changes which reduce the dissonance.

This statement confuses ideas/ideals with cognitive bias.

> psychologists warn against narratives which emphasize threats and remove control from individuals.

What about all the ideas around removing existential threats to individuals or societies?


>More significantly, ideologies satisfy the needs of groups, individual needs being secondary. Marx and Mannheim recognized this, underlining the class basis of ideology.

I can't speak to Mannheim but aren't Marx's ideas about satisfying group AND individual needs? In that (simply) proles are oppressed the bourgeois and they eventually overthrow them to create a society of only one class. I don't think Marx ever imagined proles would group up behind Marxism to do something that was bad for them on an individual level, he thought enough of them would eventually realize that what was better for them as individuals was the same as what was better for them as a group and so they would do it.

Anyways that's just a little specific nitpick but I think it gets at my broader problem with the piece, namely that Individualism is also an ideology, even if it's one that almost feels like air given how pervasive it is in society today. So to put an argument about 'ideology bad' while ignoring the one you're using to frame everything strikes me as a bit suspect.


(Regie:) 'Not wise nor gods these modern slaves.'

'Controlled, altered, razed... ferventness, limits...'

( um you may enter your possible addiction to individual-ism now )

> (One asking:) 'Somebody surrounding "content-less"?'

(Critics:) [Trolling]: 'It Probably may have been an more aestethic approach to not say anything by now...'

(-;


As Žižek says, everything is ideology. Even shit.


I still don't understand how Marx thought that the "rentier" would simply vanish into thin air by nationalizing everything. What if the "rentier" is in power? Isn't that game over?

>he thought enough of them would eventually realize that what was better for them as individuals was the same as what was better for them as a group and so they would do it.

Isn't that literally every ideology ever? Even authoritarian rulers that exploit their people think that exploitation is justified for the greater good.


In the Marxian revolution, the rentier wouldn't be in power. Representatives of the working class would be appointed to ensure that "democratic petty bourgeoisie" elected officials acted in the workers' best interest. If they did not... well, the workers would constitute an armed proletarian guard capable of implementing their demands by force if need be. Rentiers, if they be in power, would be driven out at gunpoint.

Nationalizing is only a part of this process; it's not the whole story. The idea is to centralize everything under government control while holding control of the government -- always advancing toward the goal of abolishing private property.


I don’t know… Ideologies differ greatly in how much emphasis they place on the collective vs the individual. Bundling Stalinism with liberalism and saying “both are bad for the individual” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.


I would argue that conventional implementations of both are bad for the individual.


”And that's what your holy men discuss, is it?" [asked Granny Weatherwax.]

"Not usually. There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment on the nature of sin, for example." [answered Mightily Oats.]

"And what do they think? Agin’ it, are they?"

"It's not as simple as that. It's not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray."

"Nope."

"Pardon?"

"There's no grays, only white that's got grubby. I'm surprised you don't know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That's what sin is."

"It's a lot more complicated than that--"

"No. It ain't. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they're getting worried that they won't like the truth. People as things, that's where it starts."

"Oh, I'm sure there are worse crimes--"

"But they starts with thinking about people as things..." --Carpe Jugulum, by Terry Pratchett.

when you get to thinking that your Idea is more important than people, tread really, really carefully. The ground under you isn’t as solid as you think.

Usually the more desperately you find yourself wishing things like “if only those idiots would see the light then of course we could Solve Everything!!”, the less solid the ground becomes.


Great passage

> when you get to thinking that your Idea is more important than people, tread really, really carefully.

Was just thinking about this yesterday as I was thinking of how the Catholic world went from Jesus’ principle of "Love thy neighbor" and "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" to a full blown religious wars and the Inquisition

Obviously people in power will use dogma to their benefit - but all the foot soldiers have is the cognitive dissonance between their orders and their dogma


"of how the Catholic world went from Jesus’ principle of "Love thy neighbor" and "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" to a full blown religious wars and the Inquisition"

One of my favourite debates, but probably not the right place and time for it, to discuss it fully.

But maybe a little bit:

1.Jesus said some other things as well, besides loving everyone, like he is there to bring the sword and he is not there to abolish the law(old testament) but to fullfill it. So of course there is lots of room for interpretation, but nevertheless, this allowed for all the archaic and brutal parts of the law, the old testament, to be included.

2.catholicism became state religion in a empire on the decline, close to collapse.

"but all the foot soldiers have is the cognitive dissonance between their orders and their dogma"

And the foot soldiers of empires, almost always had as the highest dogma - to follow their orders, not to morally judge them. And since the catholic dogma has a lot of battle descriptions included - even the thinking soldiers can find justification, without great cognitive dissonance. But sure, the christian military priests in nazi germany on the frontlines and such, probably had to have a bigger cognitive dissonance from their holy book and their actions.


You have to remember that christianity back then was a state religion which was intended to support state order. Nobody was intended to understand christianity.

When Constantine made christianity the religion of Rome he discovered that christianity was not well defined. Constantine created the Council of Nicaea to clean up the religion. It was a capitol offense to even believe some of the previous christian beliefs if the Nicaean council deleted your belief. Many many christians were executed.

Constantine then decided to make many Roman regions christian in name only. This included incorporating pagan gods as christian saints and adopting pagan festivals and other practices. Only a tiny educated class was expected to understand christianity at all. The uneducated class was not well regarded so that was OK.

The inquisition came much later. The intent of the Inquisition was to expunge the pagan adoption that started under Constantine. Most of the people executed during the inquisition were affiliated with pagan practices. Many of the women were pagan priestesses. At that time you had to read Latin to even understand the bible so I am sure the inquisition was confusing for most people.


Christianity absolutely has core doctrines that existed before the nicenene council- you're advancing a fiction. This idea of Christianity as a state religion is not historical and has no foundation.

Most of the major Pauline Epistles are mid first century, there were theological controversies as Christianity expanded but it's for sure not a state religion. It took centuries for the faith to dominate the pagan empire and the two got along pretty well well into late antiquity. Ultimately, many of the debates within Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries are so obscure we can hardly understand them from a modern perspective- like the miaphysite controversy and countless others.


If you remove the epistles, the old testament, and the apocrypha (meaning of questionable origin) you are left with 4 gospels of which 3 are nearly identical. This is what we have left of the teachings of Jesus. Many known gospels were removed during the Council of Nicaea. For instance, the Gospel of Thomas was removed because it was in conflict with the Gospel of John.

The other controversial issue from the council of Nicaea was the nature of the trinity. Many a holy war was fought over this exact issue for hundreds of years.

I understand what you are saying about Paul - but his assignment was to define a jewish sect for gentiles. That is what the epistles were. Paul redefined our modern understanding of Christianity by aligning the gospels with the intellectual class of the Roman empire.


I don't know if the complex fulfillment of messianic expectation can be reduced to 'love thy neighbor' or if that principle really can be stretched as far as you'd like it to go.

As far as the Inquisition, the historical reality falls far short of the Monty python esque black legend our culture has inherited from protestant Europe. Really, trying to portray the Inquisition that way has more to do with historical anti catholic bias than facts and figures. These sorts of analyses always tend to ignore inter-protestant sectarian violence or any of the killings of catholics by protestants , usually out of ignorance but often due to selective framing for ideological purpose.


It's sad to see when individuals' view of history is reduced to snippets of propaganda. Educate yourself on the both sides of the story, or suffer the risk of having your thoughts be manifestations of someone else's consciousness.


Well, I mean, how many people in the 16th century had a good strong comprehension of the differences between Trans- and Con-substantiation. Like, the final reason the Protestants were unable to reconcile with the Catholics comes down to a linguistics and translation argument that's right out of Bill Clinton's impeachment.

I sincerely doubt the peasants filling out, say, Zwingli's army for instance had any real informed opinion on the liturgical dispute.


> when you get to thinking that your Idea is more important than people, tread really, really carefully. The ground under you isn’t as solid as you think.

> Usually the more desperately you find yourself wishing things like “if only those idiots would see the light then of course we could Solve Everything!!”, the less solid the ground becomes.

As a former vegan that was in the movement for years, I can say in hindsight that those statements are very true.


A very good passage. Here's another one that's relevant, from Lois McMaster Bujold's _Brothers in Arms_:

> “Miles shook his head. “I’ll allow you know the man better than I do. And yet... well, people do get hypnotized by the hard choices. And stop looking for alternatives. The will to be stupid is a very powerful force—“

> This surprised a brief laugh from Galeni, and a thoughtful look.

> “—but there are always alternatives. Surely it’s more important to be loyal to a person than a principle.”

> Galeni raised his eyebrows. “I suppose that shouldn’t surprise me, coming from a Barrayaran. From a society that traditionally organizes itself by internal oaths of fealty instead of an external framework of abstract law—is that your father’s politics showing?”

> Miles cleared his throat. “My mother’s theology, actually. From two completely different starting points they arrive at this odd intersection in their views. Her theory is that principles come and go, but that human souls are immortal, and you should therefore throw in your lot with the greater part. My mother tends to be extremely logical. Betan, y’know.”


Also, the ends don't justify the means, or you'll just end up replacing one kind of tyranny with another.


I've seen this quote before and it seems insightful in its face.

But then I think of an example like vaccine mandates and immediately an area opens up for varied interpretation.

One side would say a mandate (or "public health policy" more generally) treats people as a corporate body of "things" seeking to maximize their lifespan while ignoring their free will and volition.

The other side would say without such a mandate we are unnecessarily harming real people, who would otherwise be railroaded by the irresponsible actions of another.


Or making wearing a seatbelt law. Or perhaps more relevantly to health policy, making drunk driving against the law (since you can harm others, as opposed to seatbelts in which case the harmed is mainly only the seatbelt-objector).

If only more people were rational, and understood how to properly value "small risks with disproportionately large consequences". But there I go touting an ideology, again...

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-inertia-trap/201...


It's clear that a line is being crossed though, when we go from "take this external low-cost behavior to enjoy the privilege of driving at 80mph" to "inject this substance into your body or you will be denied all access to public life."

Maybe the line needs to be crossed, but denying that line and ridiculing the people who value the line is not helpful. Bodily autonomy/corporeal sovereignty was historically a cornerstone belief for the same people who now want to deny it from others, and that should not be taken lightly.


I don’t think any group has switched from anti-vaccine mandates to pro-Covid-vaccine-mandates, do you have an example?


Bodily autonomy applies to more than just vaccines.


So you're saying that you are mad that people who believe abortion is a question of bodily autonomy do not also believe that vaccination is a question of bodily autonomy.

Interestingly enough, you appear not to identify with the group that has historically supported the right to abortion as a personal decision, have I interpreted that correctly? And you do identify with the group that believes vaccination should be a personal decision?


> as opposed to seatbelts in which case the harmed is mainly only the seatbelt-objector

Helmet law would be a better comparison. The argument for requiring a seat belt isn't about protecting people from their own choices. It's because it's very easy to lose control when things get exciting if you're not belted into the seat. Now you're throwing around a two ton projectile and everyone else's lives are at risk.


> The argument for requiring a seat belt isn't about protecting people from their own choices. It's because it's very easy to lose control when things get exciting if you're not belted into the seat. Now you're throwing around a two ton projectile and everyone else's lives are at risk.

This can't be the complete argument, because then it would only apply to drivers. If you're not wearing a seat belt and you're in an accident, you might become a projectile which can cause harm to others in the same vehicle.


Having had an unbelted passenger come to visit me once long ago when I was driving spiritedly, it's important that all passengers are belted in. It's hard to stay focused on driving when someone lands in your lap.


I agree with your beliefs, and I'm triple vaxxed. In my country, vaccination rates are 10+% higher than in the US, despite much less coercion. I suspect a large part of that, is that we don't have nearly the same level of political polarization.

If some person starts to link their identity to not believing in the vaccines, belittling them is not likely to help.

If it hadn't been made political, I would buy your comparison to seatbelts and drunk driving, but as it is, I think it is more comparable to putting a ban on male circumcision.

(Also, for the record, I think both sides of US politics has their own areas where they ignore evidence in favour of what is "correct" thinking for their side.)


Agree.


But both sides have large numbers of people who are still thinking “if only those idiots would see the light then of course we could Solve Everything!!” And who are willing to go to (political) war to force the "idiots" to do what they obviously should.

Within each side, there is hiding a position that genuinely cares about other people. But on both sides, the way it is pursued is very often to just try to run over the other side.


The quote is insightful, because it is insightful, if you forgive some harmless tautology.

A good test of the rule is how well it compares to the situation you want to apply it to. In the case you presented ( 'vaccines' ), for example, there is conscious effort to cast people, who refuse to be vaccinated as subhuman that have no rights in the face of this overwhelming threat.

On the other hand, unvaccinated attempt to portray the 'opposing side' as 'sheeple' riding on pre-existing anti-government strain prevalent in US mainstream.

It does not make the quote less insightful. It just shows that humans instinctively gather into tribes. It used to be the tribes were limited geographically, but this has not been the case for a while.

TLDR; Granny ( and Pratchett ) was not wrong when those words were written. It starts there.


> The other side would say without such a mandate we are unnecessarily harming real people, who would otherwise be railroaded by the irresponsible actions of another.

At best, this is misplacement of blame. The only people placing others in jeopardy are those not getting vaccinated. The rest of us are not responsible just because we didn't tie those people down and inject them. That doesn't mean the rest of us should do nothing about the problem, but neither does it mean that a vaccine mandate is necessarily the appropriate solution.

You will often see such justifications of actions: 1. We are responsible for X. 2. Our solution solves the problem of X. 3. Therefore, our solution must be implemented regardless of your objections.

The problem being (1) may or may not be true; (2) is usually true; but (3) does not follow, because their solution to the problem of X is not the only solution, even if it is their preferred solution because of politics, economy, expediency, convenience, et cetera.


One up for headology!

Granny was the best!


you have me except for the last paragraph. sometimes there really are misguided groups that need to be shown the way. flat earthers are a good example.


>> Usually the more desperately you find yourself wishing things like “if only those idiots would see the light then of course we could Solve Everything!!”, the less solid the ground becomes.

> you have me except for the last paragraph. sometimes there really are misguided groups that need to be shown the way. flat earthers are a good example.

Are they though? Isn't some giant fraction of flat-eartherism self-consciously unserious (e.g. taken up as a joke for fun as a troll), and that that isn't is tiny and utterly marginalized?

That last paragraph you responded to is quite apt for very large numbers of people in the political mainstream that are in no way like the semi-mythical flat-eathers.


> Are they though? Isn't some giant fraction of flat-eartherism self-consciously unserious (e.g. taken up as a joke for fun as a troll), and that that isn't is tiny and utterly marginalized?

Popehat's Law of Goats applies.


I only have to observe a young child for a few moments to see misguided behavior and potentially correct them. In contrast, arguing with groups dug into a position is likely to soak up hours and accomplish nothing.

If you want to advance things, ignore group affiliation. Study ideas and collect everything you can about them to build up knowledge, but if it's genuinely new, expect mostly confusion, dismay or indifference when publishing and presenting. The world doesn't care about knowing things until there is self-interest involved, and then it will care about winning by knowing, as if there is an exam to pass. Most things learned in school, for example, are about passing the exam, and therefore are only learned to be socially correct. This learning enables sophomoric behavior. The really good stuff has to be struggled for in all instances, by each person, at their own pace.

We should expect to mostly be incorrect in trying to save the world, because we aren't good, pure or innocent either.


> flat earthers are a good example

I've thought for a long time that the flat earthers are predominantly not a group of people who actually think the world is flat, but rather a group of people who enjoy the creative mental gymnastics required to try and rationalize it. I'm sure there are some people who actually believe it, but my impression is they are the minority.


What does “shown the way” mean here?


[flagged]


Would you please stop posting this sort of unsubstantive dross to HN? It's tedious, against the site guidelines, and evokes worse from others—as seen below.

Throwing fuel on the flames, as you did in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29958943, is worse yet. Please stop doing this. We've had to ask you repeatedly already.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html




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