April 2014
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Responsibility and Social Origin

Bill Whittle’s essay is very long and no, I had to skim it, but the point is clear enough if not, unfortunately, cut by Bill’s Electric Razor, the same one Occam would have used had he not had a propensity for beards. As David’s Younger Brother and, hence, influenced by similar Social Origins, those being our Father and our Mother and our brothers Adam and Greg, who art in Pennsylvania and Florida, respectively, and a host of others, including many of the same drunk-ass English teachers in H.S. and Universitas, we present slightly different views. I think Bill Whittle’s essay was nice, but could have been stated simply:

1. Human behavior is the product of biological predispositions and socialization forces (though this term is in vogue it is also Vague, it refers to “society’s influences”). So far, the evidence points to socialization forces, rather than biological predispositions, as the primary factor on which we base our repetoire of social behaviors. For a contrary view, look-up sociobiology.

2. As such, social forces have an enormous impact on what we do, say, and think. Humans are not robots. However, Social Origins make certain behavior more probable.

3. Responsibility is a moral issue. Bill Whittle commits the is/ought fallacy. He confuses what “is” for what “ought.” If you try to explain human behavior without moralizing, then you are saying what human behavior “is.” If you try to moralize, you are saying what human behavior “ought” to be.

4. This is what “is”: Humans are heavily influenced by social forces. This is what “ought” to be: Humans take resposibility for their actions, even though social forces create a greater probability that they will act in one way and not another.

And that’s what David’s Younger Brother feels about that kind of thing there.

2 comments to Responsibility and Social Origin

  • The point is, o my brother, that Whittle WAS moralizing…insofar as the differences of left vs. right. It’s incontrovertible that we’re not born with a “responsibility gene.” Responsibility is something that’s learned, taught, and developed on one’s own.

    Thing is, I agree with you. As for the is/ought fallacy, it IS true that you OUGHT to kiss my ass…just kidding. Perhaps Whittle should (ought to) have said, “To be a mensch (Yiddish term for “man,” with a more general definition of “fine, upstanding person”), you MUST have a strong sense of personal responsibility for your actions.”

    Here’s a question: at what point do you recall having learned to take responsibility for what you do? And at what point did you start holding people responsible for what they do/have done? It’s rhetorical, really. How do you quantify responsibility?

    As an example: I know that we disagree on affirmative action issues. Loudmouth jackass that I am, I don’t feel that I or anyone else owes any ethnic group in the U.S. a damn thing. However, the concept of affirmative action, as well as, say, slavery reparations, demands that I take responsibility for the actions of others (to an extent). I know that it’s a side-issue worthy of its own post, but I think you get my drift.

  • David's Conscience, or lack thereof

    My Re-Tort:
    Here’s a question: at what point do you recall having learned to take responsibility for what you do?

    I remember it clearly. It was the first time I had to wipe my own buttocks. After a particularly virulent strain of diarrhea, and after many many calls for help, I came to the conclusion that I was finally, morally, disgustingly, ON MY OWN. I learned that parents will only go so far for their children and that my brothers and truly NOT my brother’s keeper, nor wiper.

    I will think about the best re-tort for comment vis-a-vis affirmative action. I think I addressed it in an email not so long ago. This is what I said:

    If you’ve ever worked on a hiring committee, you would have seen affirmative action as it plays out. It is not quota. I find it funny that members of the legislative and executive branches (doesn’t matter the political denomination) try to get token minorities on the supreme court (Thomas, and now Bush wants some guy named Gonzalez or Hernandez or something) yet these same knuckleheads are against affirmative action. THEY ARE PRACTICING AFFIRMATIVE ACTION. When you take a second look at applications from women, racial/ethnic minorities, and veterans (don’t forget that veterans are part of affirmative action policy), you practice affirmative action. When you try to get minorities into the supreme court, even though there are more qualified white men who could do the job, you practice affirmative action.

    And that’s what David’s Conscience thinks about that thing there.