Hello, this was an interesting read; but I have to admit: I find the conclusions, and subsequently, the whole model, dubious. I refer particularly to ad. 1 to Kaczynski. The model presented takes a relativistic approach to morality, that is, forces us to assume that no value is truly "worth it "in itself. You're toying with the idea that there is some gradation to the values, but then just proceed anyway, not making a quality distinction between extra-societal meta-values and the creed received in the process of socialization. Yet without making this distinction it's impossible to understand the issue.

The model goes like this: a person growing up in a society, in order to achieve acceptance and recognition of their peers, affirms a certain creed with words and deeds: whether it is to admire figure A and despise figure B, to display disgust and approval as a reaction to proper events, etc. Yet, as much as such behavior can make up the whole of sb's life - internal and external - it is not a testimony of sb's values. At all. All of this - to know when to clap and when to frown, to worship proper figures, or even to adopt certain for-show behavioral patterns, like ones of chastity or generosity, insofar as one has in mind acceptance of one's peers in mind, is nothing more than signalling. No matter what is being adopted: whether it is orange man or alzheimer man worship, it is not to be understood as based on a "value", as it is worth nothing in itself. The only value discernible in this model is: acceptance, i.e. the sole reason why such behavioral patterns were internalized. If we're acting in [set ways], in order to achieve acceptance, than it is not [set ways] that are what is valued by us. It is the reason behind it. [Admittedly this is not to be applied to long term habits - which are a different thing.]

If we do not make this distinction, the conclusions will prove rather confusing. For example: since there is no quality difference between the "values" themselves, there is no reason to claim that a person who takes their values from one institution/source(oversocialized) makes a worse choice than someone who relies on multiple sources, be it external or internal in both cases. In a quirky way, it seems to be that the oversocialized person has an advantage: for he or she at least gains approval and recognition by adopting a set of one-sourced values. The others do not(or to be clear: they only gain a little from multiple sources), and in the model it is unclear what other purpose those values would serve, if not attaining recognition and approval. Since values can only be evaluated by their approval-gaining power relative to certain groups/societies, it comes naturally that the oversocialized are *right*, they play the social game correctly, by simply saying what is expected from them to say, no matter the actual content of the speech. Because everything you say, and every way you act, is just reduced to a signal of whether you're well-adjusted or not. This is an insight into the thought-process of a typical city-dweller - an oversocialized person. It can be - though it is not my preferred way - described as having an agenda that excludes extra-social reality.

Yet, this is what the model mentioned results in by necessity, since -to repeat myself- it treats acceptance as the only value, and then mistakes signals employed in order to achieve it as values themselves. It notes that you can have an internal source of signals, but it is unclear what purpose would those serve - signalling to yourself for self-approval?

So you could concede that it is the best course of action to become oversocialized and close the thread, but we both know this is not the case; we know that there is something wrong and degrading with being oversocialized; Ted knew this too. Therefore, if the reasoning above is solid, and I firmly believe it is, it must be that the model in question - the cause of such unusual results - must be at fault.

For the analysis to come out accurate, we need to first admit that we were wrong, and that behaviors adapted for sake of acceptance were not values, as they had no value in themselves, but were merely signals employed for extra and intra-group competition - to differentiate friends from foes(i.e. the ones who cheer when we weep and who adore when we despise), and to prove oneself worthy by affirming the creed - which we can see on twitter every day in crushing amounts. You may think: what interest does a 40y old unhealthy balding male have in insulting culturally designated enemies on the internet? Shouldn't he actually do something to advance himself in life? Well he obviously does, in a way known to him, by signalling. And this is something you would want to call a display of "values"? Yet he could not care less who he insults, and for what. And tomorrow, to prove the point, he'll start lashing out against views completely opposite, once the tastes of the mob change. Another example is wealthy celebrities running charities for good boy points vis-a-vis a genuinely compassionate person.

So what is a difference between signalling and a value? First of all, signalling is a behavior that has social approval as it's goal. It does include acting and speaking, and in action it incorporates those things that genuinely principled people do(billionaires' charities really do provide some aid), and naming a lot of things that are real values(speaking of "justice"). That said, this has to be understood as exactly what it is: just a mean to an end: which is approval-status. On the other hand, to a person in possession of a value, said value is the end: aid is given for aid's sake.

To mistake signalling for a display of certain value, rather then recognizing it as a mean to an end(approval), is as if to say that wrapping gifts is a value in itself, instead of generosity which it seeks to satisfy.

The problem with the oversocialized man is this: he knows only ONE VALUE - acceptance. This is his mistake. It does not lie in lack of variety when it comes to the sources of behavior deemed worthy. One cannot live a fulfilling and worthy life while seeking acceptance solely - or even primarily. A person well developed morally is likely to treat acceptance as a certain good, but only one of many, and mostly as a gateway to achieving some greater goods. Thus he has a ground on which he can abandon conformity in order to preserve something different, that also is of value. But this is a fight an oversocialized man is bound to lose every time, and this is what makes him deficent as a human being.

This is obviously different than the definition given in OP; that is, oversocialized = values only from one institutional source. For, lets say, what is valued by the institution is bravery and camaraderie: then such a man is set for a pretty nice livelihood, though seemingly "overreliant on one value-creating institution". But then again this is an inadequate comparison simply because I've already included actual valuable things in it; it should have been something like: what if the institution tell you "orange man bad", "goal: defeat orange man", "seek progress" which I've referred to as "creed" and which serves signalling purposes. I do not believe the answer to be: this is wrong, cause he should've also watch Fox and say: "but maybe orange man somewhat good". And same with more profound stuff like inclusion etc.

To beat the drum of anti-relative character of values once more, I have to say that in my view you did not provide a proper assessment of societally-induced behavior, assuming it legitimate in all cases, unless it forms the *sole* basis of human morality. The societal morality can be good or bad, depending on what it consists of. Usually it sets the norm in two fundamentally acceptable ways: either when it comes to rules regarding that which is arbitrary, like sense of fashion: whether skirts/pants are manly or not; or when it comes to rules that induce you into the kind of life which is aligned with what is valuable. Now, I can say this, because I think there is an objective standard there. Were the values completely relative, one obviously could only be well-adjusted(good) or maladjusted(bad). That said there is a certain standard to what constitutes a good life. So the costs of adjusting to the societal expectations that (a)determine the matters that are arbitrary, or (b)convince you to do that, which is already good, are very small, and benefits of being adjusted - huge. But there can come a moment when rules start inducing you into life of misery - then only the oversocialized will yield.

I'd have some more points but I feel like I've already written a bit too much for a single response not even knowing whether you will be willing to engage on friendly terms, so that will be it for now. Thanks for reading and looking forward to your answer, if you decide to come up with one. Cheers

Expand full comment

A new URL to that student-paper: tinyurl.com/5efmt4zm

Expand full comment

Hi Apex, your interesting work is now cited in this student paper: https://tinyurl.com/4pu67pjx

Expand full comment