segunda-feira, 10 de dezembro de 2018

segunda-feira, 22 de outubro de 2018

What is offensive?

Voltaire has become a kind of mascot for the free-speech side of this debate, and his encounter with the Duc fits the role perfectly. On this view, although Voltaire is outspoken and abrasive, he is ultimately on the side of reason and liberty. Those who take offence are like the Duc: they tyrannically silence others to protect their own sensitivities. The moral of the story is that we must not succumb to the temptation of censoring others, even if their speech is uncomfortable or painful to hear. After all, they are ‘mere words’. 
This argument is premised on a particular conception of what offence is all about. What makes something offensive is that it presents an unwelcome viewpoint that creates discomfort, bruises egos, and hurts feelings. When people take offence, they are trying to silence those who offend them. Call this concept of offence offence-as-hurt.
The main theoretical counter to this view is to argue that offence is not about ‘hurt feelings’, but about real harm. A large body of cross-disciplinary research shows that pervasive messages of exclusion or inferiority directed at disadvantaged or vulnerable groups can cause emotional distress and psychological damage. Words wound, and the wounds are no less real for not being physical. This view has frequently been used to argue for legal prohibitions on hate speech. Call this view offence-as-harm
There is a third possibility that is not often discussed but which, I will argue, does a better job of accounting for many contemporary conflicts over offence. Neither Voltaire nor the Duc would have seen their conflict as a matter of ‘offence’, properly speaking. In 18th-century France, ‘to take offence’ had a very specific meaning: to challenge another man to a duel. In duelling cultures, the challenge was nothing more than a gentlemanly convention for taking offence.To offend meant to insult or to disrespect, not to hurt one’s feelings. And to take offence was to reply to an insult by demanding a show of respect. I call this third alternative offence-as-insult
The duel of honour was a violent practice deeply associated with elitism and is therefore repugnant to today’s moral sensibilities. That said, focusing too much on the differences between offence in the two historical contexts can blind us to important parallels. If the duel seems exotic, the underlying norm of equal respect that was at the heart of honour should be more familiar. The first part of this essay will explain how the duel was used to defend equal status for all gentlemen. The second will show how the same basic concept of offence-as-insult that underlies duelling can make more sense of today’s controversies over offensive speech than either offence-as-hurt or offence-as-harm.
The concept of honour is the key to understanding such quarrels. Honour was a kind of status, entitling those who possessed it to respectful treatment from others. It was a general social status that, unlike modern legal status, applied across contexts, extending into every aspect of social life. It entitled the gentleman to respectful treatment in the drawing room and on the street, as much as in the courts. As long as this idea of honour held sway, civility manuals explaining the proper behaviour, in any context, towards one’s inferiors and one’s equals were enormously popular.

Clifton Mark, What is offensive? 

segunda-feira, 15 de outubro de 2018

Monday mood (32)

Valorizo sobretudo quem trabalha. Há pessoas que valorizam quem é bonito, outras que valorizam quem tem dinheiro, fama, conhecimentos, poder, eu gosto de formiguinhas. Podia dar-me para pior.

Gosto do Ronaldo mais porque ele é trabalhador do que propriamente por ser meu conterrâneo. Mas reconheço na humildade e na abnegação de quem trabalha todos os dias sem se queixar e sem atender ao ruído à volta características do sítio de onde venho. Voltando ao Ronaldo, não faço ideia se ele violou ou não a menina, que tem nome, que não se pode deixar sem nome: Kathryn. Confesso que essa possibilidade me perturba, confesso que já não posso ver a cara nem de um nem de outro, sobretudo  porque me perturba a certeza de, no nosso tempo, neste mundo, nunca o virmos a saber. 

Parece-me também que é muito fácil a quem tem dinheiro, fama, conhecimentos, poder – no fundo é sempre o poder – usar e abusar de quem o não tem, sem sequer o valorizar – perceber, percebem sempre, vá. E também não me surpreende (muito) que, a reboque do feminismo e dos novos movimentos entretanto nascidos, muita menina aproveite para tentar melhorar a sua situação financeira. O que é pena, porque enfraquece a ideologia e descredibiliza os movimentos. 

Ainda assim, o abuso (sexual, moral, etc.) não é de hoje mas é uma realidade ainda hoje, não temos como negá-lo. E se vitimiza mais as mulheres do que os homens, isso resulta da assimetria inerente à relação de poder que coloca tendencialmente o homem no topo da hierarquia. Quando assumirmos isto como sociedade, sem excepções e sem adversativas, quando o não que se diz for o não que se ouve, quando houver mais mulheres no topo da hierarquia – sim, sim, é disto que se trata também – talvez se possa ouvir melhor. 

Não é não é não é não é não é não.

segunda-feira, 3 de setembro de 2018

quarta-feira, 8 de agosto de 2018

Da divindade do algoritmo

In the ancient world, sortition and the casting of dice or lots (procedures grouped under the heading of cleromancy) were in use at some of the most important points in personal and political life. Election by lots was an integral part of the democratic process in ancient Greece — above all, in Athens. In the Hellenic and Hebraic paradigms alike, the randomness of the outcome was seen as an expression of divine will, which could take care of the future much better, more successfully and wisely than humans with their finite knowledge. Chance stood for a higher necessity, inaccessible to our faulty reasoning and dim awareness of causes and their effects. The Roman goddess Justitia, who later became Lady Justice, was depicted blindfolded, suggesting not freedom from prejudice but that only divine indifference could neutralize the biases as well as the familial, affective, and other attachments that inevitably persist in human decision-making.  
One can imagine a modern instantiation of sortition in public life: electoral tie-breaks decided by casting lots, for instance, or the randomization of waiting lists for organ donations. More often, however, our hopes of deliverance from bias are transferred onto algorithmic decision-making systems, which have been broadly implemented across contemporary societies, ostensibly in hopes of making employment, financial, legal, and other decisions fairer. Many human resource managers, for instance, now resort to data-driven algorithms in order to sift through the pools of job candidates and make appropriate hiring decisions. The gods of old have been carried over into the present and the future in the shape of computational thinking, artificial intelligence, and technological innovation. Though many critics have pointed out how algorithmic systems often conserve rather than eradicate bias, stubborn faith in their superhuman ability to correct an essential flaw in our human condition persists. They allow people to “recuse” themselves from decision-making processes and avoid making sense of causal relationships and phenomena when these are too complex to parse. As a result, human actors believe they have mitigated their biases, as though prejudiced thinking could not be transmitted to and engrained in an automated process.  
Excessive reliance on algorithms not only masks the persistence of bias, but also threatens to make human experience itself appear totally random. It is as though the milestones of your existence, such as getting a job or receiving a rejection letter, befell you out of the blue, with no rhyme or reason, with no one to blame, to praise, or to hold responsible. Would you like to live in a world where everything happened without a why and a because? How would life feel, were you to perceive it, including every major and minor occurrence it was woven of, as part of a strange lottery? How would you string together the story of such a life? What, if anything, would there be to narrate? Where would the descriptors “good” and “bad,” “just” and “unjust,” belong in this mess? Does justice have any meaning outside of human deliberation? 
Michael Marder, Just Randomness.

quinta-feira, 19 de julho de 2018

O perigo do pensamento único

The act of ‘joining up’ to an absolute ideology involves a kind of winnowing. It happens when someone begins to see the world through the lens of a single story. Friction with a teacher at school, or a struggle to find work, or a neighbourhood becoming more culturally mixed, or casual racism begin to seem like facets of one simple problem. And simple problems offer the alluring prospect of simple, radical solutions.  
When Arendt argued that loneliness was the common ground of terror, she was not thinking of individual acts of terrorism perpetrated by those on the margins – but of the terror of authoritarian ideologies and governments being slowly embraced by society’s dominant majority. The ideal subject of these governments, she argued, was not a convinced extremist but simply an isolated individual, too insecure in himself to truly think: someone for whom the distinction between true and false was beginning to blur, and the promise of a movement was beginning to beckon.
Pais, professores, educadores, lede Nabellah Jaffer, In extremis.