Life

Prejudices are Generally Correct

One of the books I’m currently reading is T.M. Scanlon’s “Why Does Inequality Matter?”. That guy is supposedly one of the most eminent philosophers alive. Yet, the book is full of shoddy thinking. I don’t know, maybe that is a hallmark of contemporary academic philosophy. The issues you would wish him to probe into he seems to be either oblivious to or unwilling to address. Suddenly, things are “obviously” correct or incorrect, depending on his own beliefs. For instance, when writing on discrimination, he flat-out states that prejudices are “generally wrong”, and that’s it. He does not deem it worthy to discuss this issue at all, no matter how shallowly. I could only laugh at that. Let’s dig a bit deeper into that.

Philosophers like Scanlon as well as your garden-variety liberal shithead love to proclaim that we are all equal, all the same, and if there are differences in observed outcomes, it is due to discrimination, but only if if minorities don’t do well. So, if you observe that top athletes in the NBA tend to be tall and black, then this is not a case of “institutional racism” or a manifestation of society suppressing whites. On the other hand, if you observe that blacks don’t do so well, in general, on standardized tests, then it’s an example of racism. Differences exist. People not only differ in how they look, but also in how they act. So, let’s talk about behavior for a bit. Behavior is due to one’s environment but it is also influenced by your genes. There are genes that are strongly linked to anti-social behavior for instance.

Now, assume you live in a society in which it has been observed over centuries that a certain group of people do not work productively and instead spend their time loitering, vandalizing property, stealing, robbing, dealing drugs and all kinds of shady things. The Roma come to mind. Eventually, parents start telling their kids to stay far away from those people because they mean trouble. When you see one, avoid them at all costs. It’s the smart thing to do. I don’t think an example like this could be mentioned anywhere in academia. Yet, it seems to fit perfectly the original idea of a “meme”: the dregs of society pass on their culture, while the civilized part of society passes on that you stay away from those pepole.

Of course, it may just so happen, in theory, that a new Einstein is born to a family that has spent fifteen generations cultivating a parasitic lifestyle. For practical purposes, we can discount this completely, but we’ll give guys like Scanlon the benefit of the doubt and, for the sake of the argument, ignore genes and the effects of the environment. Thus, if we lived in a society in which we systematically discriminated against such people by, for instance, having anonymized standardized examinations in which, if they even take part in them, they end up in the bottom few percent, we may deprive ourselves, as a society, of all the great things Roma-Einstein could invent and discover. We just end up in complete contradictions because all our discriminatory institutions simply ensure that we distribute opportunities based on ability. Reality does not quite live up to that idea, but by and large it is true that effort gets rewarded in a meritocratic society.

So, let’s assume Roma-Einstein made it to Harvard and now is about to enter the workforce. He may face some discrimination because of the color of his skin and the reputation of his people. He may experience some discrimination, which surely is more than compensated by all the affirmative action he’s been enjoying. Yet, does this really change anything in general? If it is still the case that his people are engaged in all kinds of disreputable behavior, it is the case that the “prejudice” such people are exposed to is perfectly justified.

Prejudice is nothing but battle-hardened wisdom. You can disregard it at your own peril. It seems that in particular our educated suburban whites live in some kind of fantasy in which everybody is a meek whitey on the inside who would gladly submit to communism and a life of lawfulness if we just let them. That is all well and good, until you end up with a gun in your face or a machete held to your neck. Cases of bleeding-heart liberals getting robbed, kidnapped, or worse are legion. It strikes me that a bit of prejudice might have saved their lives.


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5 thoughts on “Prejudices are Generally Correct

  1. It’s the societal “elephant in the room” that prejudices like sexism and racism are for the most part true — that’s how they became stereotypes to begin with. They are the truest of truisms, but because they deal with emotionally charged material they become taboo. Some people possess the intellectual capacity and courage to recognize this and admit it to themselves, but it’s hard to say how many since few people are willing to admit that the emperor has no clothes. Nevertheless, most people recognize it subconsciously and behave accordingly even if they have been indoctrinated to think otherwise, likely because it’s a survival mechanism buried deep in our evolutionary programming, many layers deeper than surface level “right-think” which goes into our conscious mind and not much deeper. Put the average person into a situation of almost any personal consequence and all but the most hardcore believers will discard politically correct hogwash for their prejudiced gut instinct. I am confident there are ample studies to back this up (usually with a hand-wringing “how are we gonna fix this” tone whenever they make it into mainstream coverage or a garden variety TED talk).

    Mainstream thinkers and philosophers have little upside and a lot of downside when it comes to being intellectually honest with the public. They are cowards of course, but they are not stupid, at least as far as they are aware of what is the truth and what they profess to be the truth. When you analyze the reward system for their line of work you realize there is little reason for them to tell the truth and every reason for them to say what the market demands they say. For that reason you’re usually better off seeking truth from a homeless person (or anonymous online blogger) than from a person who makes their living as an intellectual or thinker.

  2. Aaron,
    why do you read shit like that? Just look at the title…
    I strolled through the library the other day and saw plenty of such books with pretentious titles like “the new class of blue jeans CEOs – what they do differently and how we can learn from them”, shit like that… The author takes some totally irrelevant piece of information, blows it up like crazy, gives no actionable advice that’d be backed up by any sorts of scientific data, jerks off to a non-repeatable process (“yeah, just wear blue jeans and a polo shirt and build a new facebook by copying Mark’s leadership style)” and then writes a book of 300+ pages, making observations that could be put in probably 5 sentences maximum. Lately there seems to be a flood of utterly useless books, which can luckily identified already by their title and the contents.

    Maybe that’s your type of entertainment. Alek Novy mentioned he used to debate PUA idiots online, for stress relief, so why not… If that’s the case, totally fine – otherwise I think you’re wasting your time.

  3. Hey Aaron

    regarding prejudices, you might want to give a look at Lee Jussim and his book,

    Social Perception and Social Reality: Why Accuracy Dominates Bias and Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, 2012, Oxford University Press

    He is one of the few psychologists I consider solid. His blog RabbleRouse on psychology today is generally a good read too.

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