Dan Edge has a post up, called The Benevolent People Premise
that he implied to me was at least partially a response to something I said
Dan, I started to reply on your blog, but found I had quite a bit to say. The short answer is that I think you have a good idea, but a number of mistakes and package deals. Anyhow, I hope I can clear this up for you…
Without further ado:
While reading Dan’s post, I noticed that a commenter
honed in right away on an important point:
|I agree with Rand (and your post) that the only thing we owe others is respect until we get good reason or proof to withdraw that respect.|
..."However, I do believe that you and i will also agree on the fact that there simply *are* more irrational people than rational, just like there are more average people than geniuses."
(I changed up the order there, for presentation purposes)
I agree, but would like to add the caveat: Most people are “irrational” in the sense that they are not completely rational; i.e. a mixture of rational and irrational. More on this later…
I would also like to add: This is simply the product of an irrational culture. When you live in an irrational culture, especially one with government-enforced progressive education, the kind of genius it takes to reject that irrationality is simply not common enough that the rational expectation, statistically speaking, is that *most* people you meet are going to be irrational.
The brilliant; the rational; the prime movers are not and have never been "most people." There is nothing inherent in human beings that means this must be so – this is simply the power of philosophy – and the absence of good philosophy throughout most of history (and its non-prevalence today).
Now, I’m going to repeat a bit of that, because it is absolutely critical: There is nothing inherent in human beings that means this must be so. To truly hold a benevolent people premise is to know and expect people to live up to the capacity for rationality and goodness with which they are born. It is not to expect, statistically speaking, that one will encounter a predominance of rational people in a predominantly irrational culture. (notice the two uses of the word, “expect;” one a metaphysical expectation and the other a statistical one)
How irrational is our culture? Well, most people that I meet are dangerous only to themselves (except on election day). They can frustrate my attempts to deal with or appeal to the rational sides of their nature, but they don’t represent a negative value to my life; that is: so long, and only so long, as I am allowed privacy from them, so that I may deal with them only on the terms that I choose. (i.e. deal with them when and inasmuch as they are being rational)
If I lived in the ghetto, a small fundamentalist town in the south, or Berkley, CA, then that might be a completely different story. But luckily, if you are a reasonably productive person, our society does allow you to move to an area where everyone else must have at least some modicum of productivity (i.e. rationality) in order to live next to you.
Dan, I’ve seen people with a truly malevolent people premise. And it is very much tied into a malevolent universe premise. I think your characterization here is accurate:
|QUOTE (’Dan Edge’)|
|While he may develop relationships with new people who seem virtuous, he always expects to find faults… When he discovers a flaw in the person, he feels betrayed and angry -- but justified.|
I don’t ever feel “justified” when I encounter foolish behavior. I feel only annoyed, or betrayed, depending on the circumstances. But I would have to remind you that a malevolent universer/peopler does not feel all that angry. To him, he has simply encountered more of what he metaphysically expects of people. Sure, he is a perpetual crank, always grumbling about how people cost him this and that, but the true moral outrage of one who expects the best of people will elude him. It is only with the benevolent universe/people premise that one is capable of feeling outraged: angry at the people who fail to meet your metaphysical expectation that they will be the rational animals that they are and should be. This is the difference between a statistical expectation and a metaphysical one.
Another package deal that I found in your post, Dan, is that you have equated a statistical expectation of benevolence with manners. The fact is that I am a big proponent of manners, especially when you have reason to have poor statistical expectations of peoples’ rationality. When most people are mixtures of sane and insane, which side is a rude, disrespectful person attempting to engage with? And which side, therefore, will a rude person bring out in people?
Which side, by contrast, is a polite, respectful, well-mannered person attempting to deal with? And which side will he bring out? A rude, boorish person may as well be painting a big target on his back for the crazies to come and get him. They know how to smell out their own.
Another important point to bear in mind about people is that they, like our culture, are mixed cases. The kind of irrationality present in most people is not so pervasive that it is the controlling element in their actions 100% of the time.
As I said,
|most of them manage to juggle those sides into a semblance of a sane life (at least, I assume so given the number of things in the world that are not on fire)|
This mixture means that there is some level on which you can interact and deal with most people (again, except if you live in a particularly bad area). But, again, as I said before:
|I'm actually quite practiced at deflecting their crazy sides and bringing their not-crazy sides to the surface so I "get along" quite well with most people. But it's draining to me.|
It takes effort, in other words. Patience and effort. That’s fine for dealing with the random people that you meet in public; even for co-workers to a degree. But the more involved your relationship with someone, the more total your interaction with them. And if they are a mixed case, the more their irrational side will turn up, and the more effort it will take for you to deflect it. The more irrational the mixture, the less suitable for more involved dealings, friendships or closer relationships a person is.
The solution, as I said before, is privacy
. The ability to deal with others only on the terms of your choosing (i.e. only with their rational
sides) allows you not only to avoid their irrationality, but also to rest
from the effort of juggling the mixture. This is why a rational person in today’s society will likely keep most people at arms’ length at least.
When I said before that I look forward to a day when I can be free from having to deal with irrational people, that was only because I have a loving wife, family, and so many good friends that it just wouldn’t make sense for me to subject myself to the, at the very least tiresome
, process that it takes to grapple with the oafs of the world.*
There is nothing “malevolent universe” about that.
*…Although, given my interest of professions (i.e. an intellectual
), I will still have to deal with their ideas
. There may be a connection between that fact and my desire to be free of them in my daily life…
PS. Hey, Dan: I really agree with your characterization of people with the malevolent universe/people premise. They really are… well, downers
. By contrast, you should know that I am a genuinely lighthearted and humorous
person (except for when the situation is serious; then I take on an intensity
). I mean, come on
; the numerous jokes in my post should at least tell you about where my focus is, vis a vis the “positive.”
PPS. Saw you with the plunger
. Hahaha! Yeap, that's my kind of silly.