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simple description of "privilege"

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Dar on Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:38 am

How does telling someone to check their privilege accomplish the goal of getting people to appreciate that different people have different perspectives any better than telling them that different people have different perspectives?

Does the side effect, intended or not, of seeming to blame someone for something they cannot do anything about, which causes many to get defensive, feel hurt and dismissed, and feel like someone is acting bigoted toward them make up for those advantages?

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  rEvolutionist on Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:47 am

Dar wrote:How does telling someone to check their privilege accomplish the goal of getting people to appreciate that different people have different perspectives any better than telling them that different people have different perspectives?

Does the side effect, intended or not, of seeming to blame someone for something they cannot do anything about, which causes many to get defensive, feel hurt and dismissed, and feel like someone is acting bigoted toward them make up for those advantages?

I don't think the "check your privilege" rhetoric is useful either. But a discussion that attempts to educate ignorant people of the systemic reasons for their ignorance and tries to address those systemic reasons, is the way to go, IMO. So, essentially, I think A+safe is borking it badly. But I'm sure there's more moderate proponents of social justice out there who aren't into the blame game.


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I Call "Shenanigans" !

Post  piginthecity on Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:56 am

Hey -

How come people who want to spread this dog/lizard thing have got away with promoting it by using the religiously derived term 'parable'.

Is it to do with hypnotising us into it having some special status so we'll accept it on authority ?

Parable Shmarable ! It's an 'analogy', nothing more. Any argument based on it has got to suffer the skeptical scrutiny of whether it's a fallacious 'argument from analogy', not sidestep it with this 'parable' mumbo-jumbo.

Shenanigans is officially called !

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Cuduggan2K2 on Sat Nov 03, 2012 2:24 am

piginthecity wrote:Hey - How come people who want to spread this dog/lizard thing have got away with promoting it by using the religiously derived term 'parable'.

an anlogy is any comparison of ideas by using different subjects of those ideas, a Parable is any analogy told in the form of a story. Parable is a subset of analogy and has nothing to do with religion.

The Internet Book of Lies
The word "parable" comes from the Greek παραβολή (parabolē), meaning "comparison, illustration, analogy". It was the name given by Greek rhetoricians to any fictive illustration in the form of a brief narrative. Later it came to mean a fictitious narrative, generally referring to something that might naturally occur, by which spiritual and moral matters might be conveyed.

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  piginthecity on Sat Nov 03, 2012 2:55 am

Golly Gee, Cuduggan I dunno, maybe you're right.

I just can't think of anything else from secular discourse which is called "The Parable of the ....". Even Aesop's stories are nearly always referred to as 'fables' although they qualify as parables under your definition.

I can't help thinking it's a way to try to big this story up. As if you can ask somebody "Do you know the Parable of the Dog and the Lizard ?", implying that if they've never heard it, they're ill-informed, rather than "Did you happen to read that particular internet forum where somebody illustrated privilege using an analogy involving a dog and a lizard ?"

The job of a parable is to start a conversation. You start with a parable, and then ask "What does the parable mean ?".

This of course, can be a little clever, or dishonest on the part of the parable teller in that they've set the discussion up by using a starting point of their own construction, which may not be the most neutral, or the most skeptical approach to the topic, and where bias can be smuggled in as part of the parable's premises, in the hope that it won't be noticed. It may be a deliberately skewed approach, which I would suggest is what is happening here.

I contend that this is why parables are not a feature of skeptical discourse.

Analogies, however, are usually constructed on the fly and are meant to illustrate or explain some aspect of a topic which is already under discussion. This is a different thing.

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Cuduggan2K2 on Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:03 am

piginthecity wrote:I just can't think of anything else from secular discourse which is called "The Parable of the ....". Even Aesop's stories are nearly always referred to as 'fables' although they qualify as parables under your definition.
Fables and Parables differ but I struggle to elucidate the distinction. There are several parables in economics The Parable of the Broken Window for example.

I can't help thinking it's a way to try to big this story up. As if you can ask somebody "Do you know the Parable of the Dog and the Lizard ?", implying that if they've never heard it, they're ill-informed, rather than "Did you happen to read that particular internet forum where somebody illustrated privilege using an analogy involving a dog and a lizard ?"
I'm not sure it is. I can see how people would use it like that but I've alwasy used it as "I'm explaining myself poorly, this story helped me understand, maybe it'll help you"

I contend that this is why parables are not a feature of skeptical discourse.
I disagree, a parable is used just like an analogy, and the discussion should center on what is the same and what is different about the parable/analogy and the true situation and therefore whether or not it is actually analogous.

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Matthew Bailey on Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:23 am

rEvolutionist wrote:
Matthew Bailey wrote:
Cuduggan2K2 wrote:Matthew, you are still ignoring what people are saying.

Priviliege is the fact that the dog can go through life being ignorant of cold and it won't harm him, he has that privilege. There is no contradiction or tautology there.

The claim above very much is a tautology. It is a claim that is true because it is true.

This makes no sense. So someone can't make a claim that has the purpose to enlighten and educate, because that claim is true? scratch

Now we are back to Ignorance.

If something is true because it is true, and people don't know that, then the problem is their ignorance.


rEvolutionist wrote:
Again, if it is ignorance that is the problem, then using the word "Privilege" just puts another layer of unnecessary burden upon the claim.

Why bother with a fact about the world that is irrelevant to the ignorance?

Because the ignorance doesn't describe the problem. Ignorance is the symptom, not the cause. 'Privilege' is the cause. By all means address both, but you can't address 'ignorance' on a society wide basis. Well, you can, but the way to do that is to highlight the reasons for ignorance so that those reasons can be addressed.

eta: to clarify a bit further, each persons individual reason for ignorance is going to vary across society, depending on their environmental circumstances. But there is one thing shared in common between all people that affects them all (although not equally), and that is the concept of 'privilege'.

Well, that's how I understand it at this point, anyway.

And, the precise "causes" for their privilege is going to vary just as wildly as is their ignorance.

There is very little quantitative evidence to show that being male excludes a person from the ability to know or understand another's situation, or that it causes an ignorance of the plight of others.

The dimensions of Sociopathy and Psychopathy tend to provide a better predictor of a person's ability to empathize with (understand) another.

Then...

There are the dangers of using the word "Privilege" as it invites the denial of an objective reality and consensus of the world.

It allows people who are actively regressive and radically conservative to proclaim that their position and "feelings" are just as "right/correct" as are the feelings of the disadvantaged, dispossessed, marginalized, and otherwise oppressed individuals (who themselves may be just as wrong in their positions on a subject or issue).

For instance, there is this:

[url="http://pps.sagepub.com/content/7/5/504.short"]Perspectives on Psychological Science: Sept 2012. Vol 7, no. 5: Liberal Privilege in Psychology and the Social Sciences[/url]

In this article, a conservative will argue that Liberals are privileged, because they dominate the Social Sciences (when the exact opposite was the case not 40 years ago). And his arguments deny that there is an objective reality and consensus which we all share.

The concept of Epistemic Privilege leads to the denial of facts in place of a person's feelings about those facts.

It gives preference to a person's offense at the world, rather than to the facts about the world. A person might be legitimately offended by facts about the world. And some of those facts are offensive. But there are reasons beyond those things simply being offensive to people that make them things that we need to change.

And there are some things by which some people are offended that cannot be changed, no matter how much they are offended.

Yet the ideology of "Epistemic Privilege" gives credence to the idea that there are no privileged facts(the word privilege here has a different definition than that used to say that someone has a "Privilege" that bars them from knowing or understanding what another feels or experiences).

When there very much are privileged facts.

There is such a thing as privilege. But the use of Epistemic Privilege muddies those definitions of Privilege.

For instance, Privileges are usually earned.

Example: Driving.

We are not given the "right" to drive. The Privilege to drive must be earned.

Likewise the privilege to go to certain selected schools is only extended to a select few, and it must be earned (even though I believe that a university education should be a right, there is a reason that we tend to select the brightest of people for special treatment at selected higher-education institutes. It is for the betterment of all of society that the most talented and gifted individuals are given more access to opportunities that will allow them to better contribute back to society. They must earn this privilege - do not confuse this statement for an endorsement of the abuse that this system has suffered at the hands of people who feel entitled to attend these universities simply due to legacy or their daddies giving the schools tens of millions of dollars).

Privilege is a very narrowly defined legal term in these respects.

The thing over which most people seem to be arguing is over ignorance due to a feeling of entitlement by an individual.

Back to the dog example.

In that example, the dog completely ignores the plight of the Gecko.

This indicates that the dog either:

• Has no theory of Mind, and thus does not think that the Gecko is another living being worthy of consideration
• The dog is a sociopath or psychopath, who has no empathy for another being that is obviously suffering, which could also mean:
• The dog feels it is entitled to have its way, regardless of the needs of others around him.

There are damned few human individuals who fit the first category. Many Autistics lack a functional theory of mind, and they usually wind up with a relatively controlled environment and special care for their entire lives, which usually tend to be short.

There are many individuals in society that fit the latter two categories.

Recently, there have been discovered genetic tests for genetic correlates of Psychopathy/Sociopathy, and the small amount of testing of certain groups has discovered that many individuals, to whom the label of "Privileged" has been applied (many in Finance, Banking, and rich old white-dudes) have the Genetic Correlates for Psychopathy.

Many of these people also exhibit signs of Entitlement (which is strange considering that they have defined [i]Entitlements[/] to mean social safety nets which others worked their entire lives for, and are legitimately entitled to these safety nets, and they use the term as a pejorative/insult/degrading-remark).

They believe that they are entitled to treatment that is different and qualitatively better from that of others, simply because they are wealthy (we saw the same thing in the Robber-Barons of the 19th/20th century - who all demanded exclusion from the Law due to their wealth).

So the consequences of application of the word Privilege, as a form of Epistemic Privilege, combine to provide additional reasons to abandon it, and to use these other dimensions of social-exclusion as a basis for defining social problems, social ignorance, lack of empathy, and outright Entitlement/Psychopathy.

Sorry that this was so long.

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Dar on Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:27 am

I think that the fable is clearly privileged. Parables are clearly an oppressed minority, and no fable can quite understand what that is like. Fable's use cute animals, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as characters in a story that forms an analogy. Parables tend to use boring human characters. When will the oppression end!?

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Matthew Bailey on Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:38 am

rEvolutionist wrote:
Dar wrote:How does telling someone to check their privilege accomplish the goal of getting people to appreciate that different people have different perspectives any better than telling them that different people have different perspectives?

Does the side effect, intended or not, of seeming to blame someone for something they cannot do anything about, which causes many to get defensive, feel hurt and dismissed, and feel like someone is acting bigoted toward them make up for those advantages?

I don't think the "check your privilege" rhetoric is useful either. But a discussion that attempts to educate ignorant people of the systemic reasons for their ignorance and tries to address those systemic reasons, is the way to go, IMO. So, essentially, I think A+safe is borking it badly. But I'm sure there's more moderate proponents of social justice out there who aren't into the blame game.


This is part of another thing that I just pointed out in the rather lengthy post I just made.

Using the term "Privilege" as it is being used is a form of blame.

Most people think of the term "Privilege" as something that they have earned, and thus are rightfully due.

Using the term to describe something that puts a negative connotation upon what is rightfully due them creates animosity and anger at what is seen as an attempt to rob them of something they have worked for.

BUT...

This does not mean that there aren't people who feel entitled to something that they haven't earned.

And the word "Privilege" is the wrong term to use no matter how one might try to define or frame the word.

These people are just self-righteous and egomaniacal people. Most of the people in the Political Right at this moment in time tend to be of this sort.

They believe that Taxes are theft, rather than the payments you make for civilization so that was IS rightfully due a person can be protected by the law.

That isn't "Privilege." That is just delusion, ignorance, and a false sense of entitlement.

And, as I keep saying, there is no evidence that what people are calling "Privilege" is indeed a systemic "Cause" of anything. It is a hypothesis put forward by Identity Politicians, feminists, and post-modernists in the 1960s/70s/80s to try to create a theory of why women are at a disadvantage in society. And no evidence was ever produced that supported the hypothesis strongly enough to give it any credibility.

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  piginthecity on Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:41 am

Okay -

There are stories dubbed 'parables' outside religion, fair enough, I concede that, although you did have to go as far as economics in order to come up with an example. They are not a widely used feature of discourse outside of the religious.

Okay, so we're suggesting that the 'Parable of the Dog and the Lizard' bears the same relationship to 'privilege theory' as Bastiat's 'Parable of the Broken Window' does to Opportunity cost (Wikipedia being a wonderful thing)

This speaks to the topic of status, which I meantioned in my earlier post. Bastiat was an accomplished and influential economist. It appears his exposition about the Broken window was first put forward in an essay, "Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas", and didn't acquire the informal label 'parable' until it's merit was recognised by others. Other economists recognised that this was a succinct illustration of Opportunity Cost.

The dog/lizard story, though, is just called 'parable' because its fans insist that that is what it's called. Lexicographically, I'm sure it's fine. But there's a reason why skeptics, discussing issues pertaining to skepticism don't tend to use parables. In fact, in my experience, they never do.


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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Matthew Bailey on Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:52 am

And on the issue of Parables.

The word parable comes from the Old French Parables Latin Parabola and the Greek Parabole.

Both mean "to Compare/Comparison."

The writers of the Bible adopted this word in the late-1st, and early-2nd Centuries CE in imitation of Greek and Latin Philosophers. Polybios used the term "Parabole" in his wrtitings about the Punic Wars. Plutarch used them (parables) as well. As did later historians and philosophers (Arrian, Procopius, Arius, Plotinus, Athanasius, etc).

I do understand the objection to the term based upon its biblical connections.

The word-stems are Para (meaning "alongside" - "parallel," same root), and bola/bole (meaning "to throw'). The word originally meant, literally, "to throw alongside (for comparison)."

The word parable also came to mean "word" or "to speak."

For example: Italian: Parlare and French: Parler. Both meaning "to speak."

But the term "Parable" really just means "Analogy."

And the Parable of the Husky and the Gecko is hugely problematic. It attempts to illustrate something that is not "Privilege," but unjust entitlement.

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Matthew Bailey on Sat Nov 03, 2012 4:00 am

And Basiat's Broken Window is just as fallacious as is the Dog and Lizard.

Basiat fails to understand that the window being replaced due to someone breaking it prevents the baker from conducting his normal business (thus providing a service), the broken window prevents the glazier from doing other business, which he may have already had scheduled, and otherwise the broken window interrupts all manner of other businesses simply to replace something of lost value.

For instance, had the baker not had to spend the money on new glazing, he could have spent that money on new baking tools, enabling his business to grow. The Glazier, who had to spend money to provide the materials for the broken glazing, could have spent that money on providing new glazing for as yet built homes for the homeless. The people who had to transport the glazing could have spent that time and money likewise growing their already existing business, rather than repairing something that still had value in that society.


The parable does not figure in all of these lost costs in its calculation of the money exchanged simply for the broken window (which he fails to calculate in the cost of as well).

This parable (Broken Window) is the center of Conservative Economic Theory, and the theory of Creative Destruction - which is a pathological form of economic theory that profits from the destruction of things of existing value, rather than working to add value to already existing structures.

But this is off topic. It does illustrate that many parables are incredibly flawed... Dog & Lizard included.

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off - topic sorry

Post  piginthecity on Sat Nov 03, 2012 4:10 am

Hey Matthew -

You are mistaken about Bastiat in that his parable makes the exact same points you are making. His parable is about why it's false to think that breaking windows is a good idea.

He also came up with the candlemaker's petition - which is to have the sun blocked out so they don't have competition. He didn't think this was a good idea either !

Anyway, in case you've not read the sub-thread it's that I suggested that the term 'parable' as applied to the dog/lizard thing is amounts to a fallacious argument from authority. So far I'm probably losing.


Last edited by piginthecity on Sat Nov 03, 2012 4:19 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Matthew Bailey on Sat Nov 03, 2012 4:18 am

piginthecity wrote:Hey Matthew -

You are definitely wrong about Bastiat in that his parable makes the exact same points you are making. His parable is about why it's false to think that breaking windows is a good idea.

He also came up with the candlemaker's petition - which is to have the sun blocked out so they don't have competition. He didn't think this was a good idea either !

Anyway, in case you've not read the sub-thread it's that I suggested that the term 'parable' as applied to the dog/lizard thing is amounts to a fallacious argument from authority. So far I'm probably losing.

Ah... Then I have been presented this parable by someone who does not know it very well.

Thank you for pointing that out.

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Kurt H on Sat Nov 03, 2012 4:18 am

rEvolutionist wrote:But what is the parable if not an attempt to force men to learn about this issue?

It's not really force, just an attempt to make people aware. As can be seen from Matthew Bailey's posts, one can easily go right on ignoring the concept. I actually sense that you've pretty well got the concept at this point, but are still working through the implications. Which is OK.

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Matthew Bailey on Sat Nov 03, 2012 4:20 am

Kurt H wrote:
rEvolutionist wrote:But what is the parable if not an attempt to force men to learn about this issue?

It's not really force, just an attempt to make people aware. As can be seen from Matthew Bailey's posts, one can easily go right on ignoring the concept. I actually sense that you've pretty well got the concept at this point, but are still working through the implications. Which is OK.

I'm not ignoring the issue.

I'm pointing out that no matter how it is framed, it is a flawed concept.

It isn't that I don't understand it.

It's that I reject it as a useful concept; as the wrong way to go about correcting a problem; and as the wrong word to use for that problem.

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Kurt H on Sat Nov 03, 2012 4:50 am

Matthew Bailey wrote:This indicates that the dog either:

• Has no theory of Mind, and thus does not think that the Gecko is another living being worthy of consideration
• The dog is a sociopath or psychopath, who has no empathy for another being that is obviously suffering, which could also mean:
• The dog feels it is entitled to have its way, regardless of the needs of others around him.

There's also the possibility that the dog is not privileged in some factor other than temperature and is indignant at the suggestion that it has special advantages. This is, for example, why you'll find Black people who are very anti-gay and if you mention their privilege they will fall back on their skin color as a defense (as if one privilege cancels or trumps another). You'll also find gay men who pull this shit on feminist issues . . .

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Kurt H on Sat Nov 03, 2012 4:59 am

Matthew Bailey wrote:I'm not ignoring the issue.

I'm pointing out that no matter how it is framed, it is a flawed concept.

It's been pointed out several times that you fail at logic on this point. You conflate difficulties in being empathetic with the impossibility of empathy, and use that conflation to present difficulties in understanding as an insurmountable wall. Having done so, you then wail and moan about how unfair it is to be asked to try and climb that wall.



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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Matthew Bailey on Sat Nov 03, 2012 5:05 am

Kurt H wrote:
Matthew Bailey wrote:This indicates that the dog either:

• Has no theory of Mind, and thus does not think that the Gecko is another living being worthy of consideration
• The dog is a sociopath or psychopath, who has no empathy for another being that is obviously suffering, which could also mean:
• The dog feels it is entitled to have its way, regardless of the needs of others around him.

There's also the possibility that the dog is not privileged in some factor other than temperature and is indignant at the suggestion that it has special advantages. This is, for example, why you'll find Black people who are very anti-gay and if you mention their privilege they will fall back on their skin color as a defense (as if one privilege cancels or trumps another). You'll also find gay men who pull this shit on feminist issues . . .

Again, why talk about Privilege then if it doesn't have an operationalizable definition.

If it cannot be falsified, then it is basically a position of faith.

This is not to say that differences do not exist. It is just saying that "Privilege" is not the right word for it (as I have pointed out in so many different ways).

A "Privilege" is something that one is legitimately due; that one has earned. It is something to which something or someone is legitimately entitled.

For instance: Our doctor's opinion/diagnoses of why our throat might be sore is privileged over the opinion of the guy at the local convenience store.

The doctor has earned the privileged knowledge he possesses by virtue of having invested ten years in the study of biology and medicine.

The black man who objects to homosexuals is just a bigot, and he is wrongly claiming possession of freedom from having done wrong.

The gay man objecting to feminism... Depends upon to what he is objecting, because there is an awful lot that is wrong in many feminist theories (Privilege being just one of those things). But if he is just being a misogynist (of which there are many gay men who are also misogynists, just like there are many gay women who are misandrists), then the problem lies with his misogyny, and not any "Privilege."

I would suggest that you try to apply the concept of Science to the term. If it cannot be operationalized and falsified then it is an article of faith, a dogma.

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Matthew Bailey on Sat Nov 03, 2012 5:14 am

Kurt H wrote:
Matthew Bailey wrote:I'm not ignoring the issue.

I'm pointing out that no matter how it is framed, it is a flawed concept.

It's been pointed out several times that you fail at logic on this point. You conflate difficulties in being empathetic with the impossibility of empathy, and use that conflation to present difficulties in understanding as an insurmountable wall. Having done so, you then wail and moan about how unfair it is to be asked to try and climb that wall.



I'm not conflating difficulties in being empathetic with impossibilities of being empathetic. I've pointed out several times that simply claiming a difficulty in empathy is hardly sufficient to claim to be due to some "privilege" or defect in the ability to know something.

Difficulties in being Empathetic is not "Privilege" (other than people here trying to claim it is)

It's simply ignorance, bigotry, sociopathy, autism, or any number of reasons.

And the claim that it is "Systemic" is simply not true either. There is no evidence to support that claim, and the lack of any fixed definition of what privilege looks like across a domain tends to doom the concept.

How would you go about Operationalizing "Privilege?"

How would you go about falsifying the concept?

You know, like any science, or concept that exists in the sciences, it must be falsifiable to be anything other than an unproved hypothesis, or an article of faith. At the very least, there needs to be some evidence that it actually exists.

It is better to simply deal with the problem of lack of empathy itself, which is not something that is combined to individual cases.

Lack of empathy itself can be systemic, and is testable (get a population, put them in a situation where it is possible to show that a lack of empathy is NOT the reason for their behavior, and then test them on that).

But to go from there to calling it "Privilege" is a bit of a leap.

To what specifically does the "Privilege" apply?

What did they do to earn this "Privilege?"

To what is it "Privileged" over?

Is your Doctor's opinion "Privileged" over that of your local convenience store clerk when you have a sore throat (to repeat this)?

How is your Doctor's opinion's privilege a lack of empathy?

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Kurt H on Sat Nov 03, 2012 5:44 am

Matthew Bailey wrote:This is not to say that differences do not exist. It is just saying that "Privilege" is not the right word for it (as I have pointed out in so many different ways).

Semantics. Are you objecting to the concept itself, or do you just not like the label?

We could call it "Overall Structural Advantage" but then pedants like you would have three words to play semantic games with. We could call it "glorpleblatt" but then people will complain that the word is "made up" and doesn't connect to the real world.

Or you could, you know, critique the concept itself rather than the label.

Matthew Bailey wrote:The gay man objecting to feminism... Depends upon to what he is objecting, because there is an awful lot that is wrong in many feminist theories (Privilege being just one of those things).

The privilege concept is general, it's not just a feminism thing. So, white privilege is a concept you can understand and accept (except for your semantic gripes about the word itself) but male privilege is fishy? Black people deserve respect, but women, eh . . . not so much?

Matthew Bailey wrote:I would suggest that you try to apply the concept of Science to the term. If it cannot be operationalized and falsified then it is an article of faith, a dogma.

This is like asking someone to make falsifiable the concept of a person "being better off" than another. How exactly would one do that, and if one can't does that mean that we are all equal, that "being better off" doesn't exist?

Quantifying privilege would be difficult, but we could measure the "size" of advantages that certain groups have on the basis of the material significance of the advantage (financial, legal, safety, etc.) combined with the frequency with which that advantage applies. The product of these two things would be the "size" of a particular advantage. Those areas could be added together for each state of any particular categorical variable representing a social class, and we would find that one total is larger than the others. To be privileged would be the state of being a member of a class with higher total advantage than members of other classes within that category. We could then do surveys to find the frequencies and impacts of common advantages and see if class differences were significant or insignificant, increasing or declining, etc. Some of this has already been done (in part) throughout the social sciences.

Of course, in most cases, the question of which groups are privileged is really obvious. And most objectors to the concept complain not that the differences don't exist, but rather that the differences are natural and not worth correcting. For example, they will say that men have privilege because of "evolution" (see, for example, AliRadicali's posts).

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Westprog on Sat Nov 03, 2012 6:25 am

Kurt H wrote:
We could call it "Overall Structural Advantage" but then pedants like you would have three words to play semantic games with. We could call it "glorpleblatt" but then people will complain that the word is "made up" and doesn't connect to the real world.

Or you could, you know, critique the concept itself rather than the label.

...

The privilege concept is general, it's not just a feminism thing. So, white privilege is a concept you can understand and accept (except for your semantic gripes about the word itself) but male privilege is fishy? Black people deserve respect, but women, eh . . . not so much?
...

The concept is at its most fragile not because women don't deserve respect - the concept doesn't address what people deserve, or don't get. It's fragile when dealing with women because it asserts that women have an overall structural disadvantage as compared to men. All women have this disadvantage, compared to all men. Clearly in some cases other factors can balance things out - but men > women, all other factors eliminated, is universal.

This clearly is not born out as a universal thing for all groups in society. We can see boardrooms full of men. We can see government led by men. However, we can also see that most of the homeless people by the side of the road are men. We can see prisons full of men. We see men dying sooner than women, and being injured and mutilated more.

Does the concept of privilege help us deal with this? It helps with understanding race issues, and wealth issues. We'd be surprised if black people had a greater life expectancy that white people, other factors excluded. We'd be amazed if more wealthy people were in prison than the poor. That would throw doubt on the whole concept. Yet the concept of male privilege is considered to be so obvious that such things can simply be defined out of existence as "benevolent sexism" because female privilege is considered to be impossible.

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  rEvolutionist on Sat Nov 03, 2012 10:40 am

Matthew Bailey wrote:
rEvolutionist wrote:
Matthew Bailey wrote:
Cuduggan2K2 wrote:Matthew, you are still ignoring what people are saying.

Priviliege is the fact that the dog can go through life being ignorant of cold and it won't harm him, he has that privilege. There is no contradiction or tautology there.

The claim above very much is a tautology. It is a claim that is true because it is true.

This makes no sense. So someone can't make a claim that has the purpose to enlighten and educate, because that claim is true? scratch

Now we are back to Ignorance.

If something is true because it is true, and people don't know that, then the problem is their ignorance.

Sorry, I can't get into the rest of your post yet until I can understand what point you are trying to make with this. What does "true because it is true" mean exactly, and what am I supposed to get from that meaning? Interestingly, your attempts to contest the parable on the basis that it is a "tautology" has resulted in you using a tautology yourself to attempt to make your case.

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Eldin Alvere on Sat Nov 03, 2012 2:52 pm

Dar wrote:I have to agree with Mathew on this one.

Just to make things simpler, I'm going to set up a different situation with clearer lines: A person who has been blind from birth, and a person who has what would be considered normal human vision.

The blind person could consider the sighted person as privileged. There are simply aspects of the blind person's experience that the sighted person cannot know in the same way as the blind person does.

Yet, how can this 'privilege' be addressed?

We could poke out the sighted person's eyes, but does that really do any good? That is one weakness of this example, as typically when discussing issues of privilege there is no way to level the playing field. However, even when there do exist such ways of leveling the playing field, those ways tend to try to answer injustice with more injustice.

The simple fact of the matter is that the person who is considered privileged lacks the same kind of knowledge that the person who is not privileged has. They are ignorant of it, and there is no way for them to get it in the same way that the person who is not privileged does. If there were an acceptable way for the privileged person to get what the person who is not privileged knows, then privilege would not be an issue at all. The problems with privilege would not exist. You can't address the problem of the privileged person's ignorance by conferring knowledge upon them, no matter how willing they might be.

The sighted person could appreciate that the blind person has experienced life and learned to cope with it in ways radically different than the sighted person has. This, more than anything, seems to me to be the point that Mathew has failed to articulate well. While there exists no epistemological solution to ignorance brought about by being different, humans have brains capable of empathy, compassion, and understanding. This gives them the ability to realize that they don't and can't know things in the same way that someone else does. In the dog and lizard example, if the dog had even an ounce of compassion, it would have been able to take the lizards word or observe that it was in pain, and attempt to correct that problem. This wouldn't require the dog somehow being able to experience cold in the same way that the lizard does.

Is it really useful to call this privilege though? The issue is ignorance brought about by the fact that different persons with different bodies and different circumstances don't, and in many cases cannot, know what something is like for someone else. The only way to address the privilege issue head on would be to make these different persons with different bodies and different circumstances as similar to each other as possible... which could only really happen by racing down to the lowest common denominator, or by having everyone get upgraded into cyber-persons (PC conversion of a doctor who race). This, as I mentioned earlier, only increases injustice. What if not everyone wants to be the same? Furthermore, privilege seems to be used more as a concept for insult and dismissal than anything else. I think one could argue that the framing of the concept as 'privilege' tends to promote stereotypical thinking and bigotry rather than decrease it.

We already covered that you cannot address the issue epistemologically. We can't confront it on ignorance grounds, as Mathew seemed to be suggesting.

Again, what the concept seems to be promoting when used well is that we should be AWARE of and APPRECIATE the perspectives and experiences of others. We shouldn't blame others for being different, or dismiss them for being different... in either direction. We should value each other's differences and attempt to work together in our diversity.

I think we can accomplish that goal better by focusing on that goal instead of getting hung up on the issues that make that goal worth focusing on.

Fairly well said. However, 1 contention. We all have different experiences. For instance, I will never know what it is like to have been born to a rich family. I will never know what it is like spend my childhood enjoying sports. Etc. Yes, we all have differing experiences. This is what makes us different. Some people were luckier than others in their experiences in life.

The differences don't have to be so generic as they make it out. Blind vs able bodies. Male vs female. Straight vs gay. Etc. I will try to illustrate my point.

The most significant events in my life that defined my character and who I am were mostly small and seemingly insignificant events. My grandfather gave me "King Arthur and the Knight's of the Round Table" when I was 8 and paid me $100 to read it. That's not a big traumatic event but it introduced me to fantasy books, which lead me to sci-fi, which lead me to science, etc. When I was in 4th grade, our teacher let us work on our own in mathematics because she was fairly incompetent. However, if we finished a chapter early and got above 90% on our tests and assignments, we were allowed to play "Oregon Trail" during math class. Being poor and not having video games at home, this was exciting for me and my friend, Juventino. So after school we would do math for 3-4 hours every day. By the end of 4th grade, I was the best in my grade at math and it stayed that way through uni.

My being poor was beneficial for me. While I know it's not beneficial for all, or even most, poor people, I am glad I was poor. My poor alcoholic drug addict thrice divorced parents provided an environment for me that most people would have found appalling; it turned out to be quite good for me. To state that some one is privilege simply because they are rich is entirely unfounded, simplistic and flat out insulting. It is quite possible that their being rich caused inordinate amount of difficulties in their life. It's quite possible that their parents were absent, stressed, abusive, etc. because of their drive to earn money. Etc.

The same is true for being a man, a woman, straight, gay, etc. These things are not innately advantageous or innately disadvantageous. They are simply differences.

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Re: simple description of "privilege"

Post  Eldin Alvere on Sat Nov 03, 2012 2:57 pm

rEvolutionist wrote:
Dar wrote:How does telling someone to check their privilege accomplish the goal of getting people to appreciate that different people have different perspectives any better than telling them that different people have different perspectives?

Does the side effect, intended or not, of seeming to blame someone for something they cannot do anything about, which causes many to get defensive, feel hurt and dismissed, and feel like someone is acting bigoted toward them make up for those advantages?

I don't think the "check your privilege" rhetoric is useful either. But a discussion that attempts to educate ignorant people of the systemic reasons for their ignorance and tries to address those systemic reasons, is the way to go, IMO. So, essentially, I think A+safe is borking it badly. But I'm sure there's more moderate proponents of social justice out there who aren't into the blame game.


I disagree. I think by focusing on the differences between people, you focus on the differences. You put inordinate emphasis on the ways in which we are different. This categorizes people in increasing amounts. You cause diversity where none otherwise should exist.

We are all people with differing abilities and differing experiences.

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