Performative Evaluation in Associative Epistemology
- Readers familiar with the Analytic Metaphysics of Quality will recognize that the word "associative", as used in this article, means the same as the concept of "gnostic" epistemology. However, there is no convenient way to use "gnosis" as a verb so I chose to speak of association.
I get the impression I am sometimes supposed to avoid the use of comparative language. Since hierarchies are sometimes supposed to be implicit, how do I enforce them without the use of comparative language?
Would it delight people that I would also forgo comparative thinking? No, it wouldn't. Because then I couldn't tell right from wrong and I couldn't give any kind of protection or support for someone who was treated wrongly. I could not tell whether that person was treated wrongly or not. If I only cared about whether he or she got hurt I might encourage her to keep doing something that's bad for her simply because I would, without actual warrant, accept everything I see or experience.
I do not perceive a need to forgo comparative thinking, only a need to forgo comparative language in casual social contexts. If someone wants to also forgo comparative thinking, they need someone to tell them how things are so that they would not need to think themselves. And they would need to be told only if they might otherwise do something that wouldn't be good for them.
I know how to use non-comparative language to enforce hierarchies and I've done it before I knew how it works. It's done by associating the object of performative evaluation to something else that is explicitly evaluated. Such as, if you criticize a celebrity and someone present happens to look like that person, there will be an emotional confrontation within the group in which everyone decides to which extent they wish to connect the object of critique to the person who is present. However, performative associative evaluations can be invasive or even violent in the sense that the evaluation is largely involuntary for those whose rationality or willpower does not suffice to deflect it.
In a more subtle and thus more "pure" case of performative evaluation the object is associated to something that is not explicitly evaluated but has already been evaluated. This kind of performative evaluation is more integral for maintaining group cohesion because it implies that the critic belongs to the group in which he presents the critique. Such as, if it is already known that some celebrity is liked, this doesn't need to be restated when that celebrity is used to enforce a positive evaluative association on somebody.
An interesting case of qualitative performative evaluation is one in which a liked celebrity is criticized so that someone present looks like him. In this case the object of critique can deflect the performative evaluation by behaving in a way that is not associated with the liked celebrity. In that case the outcome of the confrontation would seem to be that the celebrity turns out less liked unless he also happened to change his ways.
The people present do not need to be aware of the evaluation in order to participate in it and let it run its course. In fact, awareness of the evaluation decreases its efficacy. The actual object of critique should usually do nothing that can be perceived by others because any act would strengthen his association with the nominal object of critique that, in this example, is the celebrity. The only way the actual object of critique could do something without immediate adverse effect on himself would be to introduce conflict. This, in turn, would be inherently harmful in some situations that might be considered sacred or special. It would probably damage the cohesion of the group unless the conflict had a resolve that would be highly acceptable. The resolve could also be difficult to accept for the initiator of conflict, especially if the conflict was initiated unwisely.
The object of compliments might wish to do something to associate himself with the compliment, thus increasing its efficacy. It depends on the situation whether this is appropriate. In sports it usually is. Sports is an environment of low harmony because there are teams or individuals that compete against each other. A religious ceremony is a state of high harmony in which individuals share an experience of losing individuality. A person who is a spiritual authority is not expected to intentionally direct any more attention to himself than he needs for participating in the ceremony or ritual in the appropriate role.
Animal Rights, Gender Roles and Racism
Willingness to participate in associative evaluation and knowledge of how it's done does not suffice for doing a good job at it. A person should also be innocent for their evaluations to be effective. In mainstream culture this kind of innocence is frequently cultivated in girls but not so much in boys. It is also cultivated in children. However, although these conventions are obvious from an anthropological viewpoint it is usually subjectively indecent, in Western culture, to mention them because they restrict associative thinking in a way that grownups are not expected to need under peaceful everyday circumstances. In other words, that subject is taboo.
Associative evaluation is based on the premise that all living things are equal. A dog is of equal associative potential than a human. If you associate something good to a dog you will get that good thing from the dog. The power of associative evaluation lies within the fact that it does not require willpower. This means people can do that even when they get old. And that is called culture.
Even though hunting and fishing can be considered skills we do not afford to forgo, it is possible that killing animals, especially manually, is harmful for associating good things to animals. In social settings in which pets are used to store high amounts of associative value, people who have manually killed animals are at a disadvantage because if they have significant associative ability they may strongly associate pets to animals they have killed. Positive associations to the living animal that is possibly a pet and negative associations to the dying wild animal will interfere with each other. This is why hunters and fishers might have some defenses against experiencing associative quality. Gratitude may be one defense but cannot be projected at the wild animal that did not want to die. It may be projected at a deity or it may be projected at a group of people who do not kill, if the target of the projection accepts it. In case it does the killer may be cleansed of the associative burden to some extent. It is possible to purge such associative burden in a cathartic experience.
The manual killing of animals is not necessary for experiencing associative pollution. Even buying the meat of dead animals and tasting it will cause some pollution in anyone who is able to understand what they are doing. Furthermore, the negative associative value of manually killing animals is not necessarily triggered by another animal. It may also be triggered by a picture or a human that, for any reason, resembles an animal that was killed. However, the probability of triggering associations is higher in animals that are of the same species and otherwise similar - which is why people who might have to kill other people are more inclined to support racism unless they already live in a multicultural region. Another consequence of this is that it's customary in the West not to treat cats or dogs like livestock even though it would be rational in the vulgar sense to do so. If cats and dogs are culturally given special treatment it is generally easier to store associative value in them and to access that value. Practically and somewhat naively, value is stored in the dog by petting it and accessed when the dog is happy to see a nice person or animal.
A general defining feature of associative pollution caused by manual killing is the automatic shutdown of empathy at a moment when a living creature that is afraid is observed. It is caused by a "flashback" although such a shutdown may also be innate in predators. In any case, one does not want to feel with a submissive creature one is about to kill because that creature is afraid, and being afraid would interfere with killing the subject. An associated gesture of fear in a subject that is not going to be killed but is instead empathised with might be completely unexpected in the killer and may cause the killer even to experience irrational anger towards the subject that is afraid. The anger would be caused by the subject preventing the killer from experiencing empathy in a situation when the killer would wish to do so. It is likely to clear quickly as the killer realizes the subject not to be at fault for causing the association. Some subjects express fear as a part of a larger whole of emotional expression, or simply because one is incapable of hiding it, and in these cases it might be more beneficial to choose a more nurturing approach.
For practical intents and purposes, one does not become charming by merely understanding that associative evaluation can be used to hierarchically evaluate people. A more kind, less invasive and more sustainable solution is to qualitatively evaluate people. To suggest that they bear likeness to something that, within the current context, is neither good nor bad. The options are of qualitative difference. It is possible to construct an associative context in which "dog", "the king" and "the janitor" are equally valuable in the sense that an equal amount of associative quality has been invested in them even though this same amount of quality has been configured in a different way for each one of the options. This way we reach a stage in which the evaluation itself turns interesting in a way that does not encourage qualitative evaluation of good versus bad but does increase social interaction. If all participants of the social interaction are configured in compatible ways or can adapt to each other they may merely keep following their associations and keep doing good. However, if the configuration is not good it will lead into conflict or stagnation. It is a human need to yearn for perfect initial configurations but both empirical experience and normative inquiry have implied that this is impossible.
Due to its energy efficiency, associative evaluation is highly similar to programming despite its different epistemological approach. Programming is also energy efficient in the sense that a team of programmers wastes few tangible resources whereas a car factory consumes lots of resources. On the other hand, programming is not energy efficient in the sense that it can be emotionally damaging in the case of working too much. Too much programming work may cause associative overexcitability. Since the programmer works like a slave, even if it is due to his own volition, he will feel like a bad person and therefore he is likely to associate in a way that is harmful for him. If that happens, he needs to keep using willpower in an associative context even though he is not meant to, because that way he can intentionally deflect bad associations. But if a programmer can temporarily feel good, and latch on to the group as someone who feels good, the group will maintain that role because it has associated him with the good feeling that was temporarily inherent for him. This way the group creates permanence for something that is good.
This is one way to explain how people who are considered jovial or warm manage to bring up seemingly random subjects of discussion that appear to be interesting and not offensive for anyone. But they are not aware of doing it when they do it, or at least that sounds unheard of to me. Perhaps they used to be aware of it at some time. The purpose of things like numerology is to nurture this kind of associative thinking by showing examples of associations that, somehow, seem good. Not all people have much associative ability which may render them unable to obtain personal experience of evaluating associations. It might have something to do with language abilities, but I'm not sure. Anyway, the best reason they can have for believing that numerology should be tolerated is that someone with intellectual authority tells them such people exist, or that they become such an authority themselves by observing this tendency in other people.
On the Purpose and Extent of Association
What is the purpose of feeling good if one cannot share it with a group, thus amplifying or preserving it? The purpose of feeling good in solitude would appear to be to utilize the good feeling - which is an anomaly, a "better than usual" feeling - for something worthwhile. Such as programming. Or writing, but that's not something I used to spend good feeling into. Sometimes, when I program, I see the good moments flash before my eyes. I feel like: "That was that... that was a good one... now it's gone, the memory faded and needs to be recharged".
Significant portions of how magic works can be reduced to associative evaluation. Apparently, some people have intuitive knowledge of future events. They then unconsciously gather everything that is needed to prepare for the event. People whose qualitative associative abilities are motor will be able to unconsciously shuffle Tarot cards so that they get the cards they want to get. But they could not do the same thing if they were aware of what they're doing. In that case they would need to use willpower to perform a complicated task.
I have often opened a 1000-page dictionary, since I used to use them a lot, so that I'm right on the correct page or up to two page turns away. It's a manual operation that I have frequently performed without any effort or intention to do so. It is a case of a quantitative motor association and it qualifies as an association due to the absence of effort or intention. It is like knowing what's in your pockets without a need to check. Genetically transmitted motor associations are called reflexes.
If the concept of association were restricted only to words or language then this kind of motor or spatial association would need to be called something else than "association". What, I do not know. Things can be associated to each other by virtue of being spatially near each other so perhaps association does not need to be restricted to language or words.