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Ideological Ascent and Asymmetry

There's a certain dialectical move I sometimes see, wherein you criticize someone's political conduct as unreasonable on grounds that abstract away from the (first-order) details that they're actually responding to.  We might call this ideological ascent, as the critic insists on looking only at abstract features of the dialectical situation, e.g. the mere fact that it involves an "ideological disagreement", without any heed to the actual details of the dispute.Ideological ascent seems to presuppose a symmetrical view of political/ideological merit: that "both sides" of a dispute are (at least roughly) equally reasonable.  This convenient assumption saves one from the hard work of actually evaluating the first-order merits of the case under dispute.  (See also: in-betweenism.)  Alas, people have been known to advance unreasonable political views from time to time.Some moral principles can work while abstracting away from the first-order details.  For example, you probably shouldn't literally crucify your political opponents, flay them, or bury them alive, even if they've deliberately implemented objectively harmful policies.  The cases in which such violence would be justified are so rare that you likely don't need to get into the details of the dispute before criticizing someone who wants to literally crucify their political opponents.  Ideological ascent works for such easy cases.You might also find the odd individual who [More]

Philanthropy Vouchers and Public Debate: Political vs Civic Advocacy

It's interesting to compare the ways we talk and think about political vs non-political (civic/philanthropic or market) agents, advocacy, and organization.  Consider the common objection to Effective Altruism, that it allegedly "neglects the need for systemic change."  I've rebutted this objection before, but a different aspect of it that I want to focus on today is that the criticism seems to presuppose that only politics can be systemic.  But why assume that?EAs advocate that everyone donate at least 10% of their incomes to effective causes.  If that happened, the world would be radically transformed: ending extreme poverty, material deprivation, and easily preventable disease, forever.  So if that's not a "systemic change", I don't know what is.  Admittedly, what we're calling for (in the first instance) is change to the behaviour of agents in the system, rather than changes to the rules of the system.  But changing the rules also requires behaviour (just of a political sort), so it's not entirely clear what the basis is for seeing any deep distinction or disagreement here.Perhaps the thought is that the sort of 'systemic change' constituted by universal acceptance of Effective Altruism is just too unrealistic.  That might seem an odd criticism for political radicals (of all people) to make, but it's certainly more probable that (enough) people change their political behaviour to elect a radical [More]

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