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Reblogged:Considering the Altruist 'Gush Gallop'

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If you have ever heard a committed altruist getting ready to pull off a sacrifice, it can be quite memorable and even instructive. Among the things I observed from such an episode is a sort of Gish Gallop-like phenomenon, such as one I journaled regarding a scheme in which I was among the proposed sacrificial victims:
Image by Stephen Leonardi, via Unsplash, license.
He was on quite a roll, and plainly was beginning to feel whatever it is that committed altruists start feeling when they imagine they are "saving" some poor soul through the magic of a sacrifice that they have arranged.

A torrent of the allegedly great things this would mean just rolled off his tongue: We'd have someone around to help with the kids. He'd be around two responsible adults. He'd now have an older male in his life. Blah, blah, blah. Rainbows and unicorns!
Since most people equate altruism with morality, it is probably easy for someone hatching such a plan to regard it as fait accompli in some sense: What "evil" person could oppose it, after all?

The apparent (to them) absence of any need to convince someone of any selfish interest in such a scheme might partly explain the spectacular number and speed of items on that list -- as well as what appeared to me to be something like an emotional high or a trance.

But there are lots of other interesting things to unpack just from that.

First of all, it was a pretty hare-brained idea that I had zero trouble shooting down permanently. Those in favor had to have turned off their own minds (and been unable to conceive of opposition) just to have proposed it seriously. That torrent of concretes may have flowed from their one-sided consideration of what they hoped to accomplish, but I think it also served as a sort of self-reinforcement that they were in the right.

In addition it's easy to see how a "gallop" like this can achieve a sort of epistemological disarmament of the intended victim: For one thing, it can overwhelm the "crow space" of anyone who isn't thinking carefully and, critically, selfishly. (This can be deliberate, like a Gish Gallop, but I think it can simply follow from the dumb logic of the premise that man is a sacrificial animal.)

Already overwhelmed with details, anyone who is an altruist is all but doomed because he will likely meet this with a mixture of a desire to be or look "good", a sense of (unearned) guilt, a desire to conform to what everyone else seems to think is right, and resignation.

Interestingly, the way most people even think about thinking comes into play. Many people, confronted with an argument they disagree with, think they have to convince others that it is wrong, or at least satisfy others with some excuse not to act on it. That is, most people do not understand the selfish interest in grasping, evaluating, and applying ideas, be they, say, philosophical injunctions to be their brother's keepers or concrete applications of the same.

To such people, I would have either looked like a monster or a very brave man, but in the moment, I was simply thinking clearly about what would be best for myself and my family, and communicating directly.

-- CAV

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