Tuesday, 2012 January 31, 15:21 — ethics

individualism ≠ egalitarianism

Elsewhere someone wrote that libertarians cannot be racist or sexist because our defining tenets include individualism. I responded:

As I understand it, individualism is the moral principle that consent can be given, and obligation incurred, only by the acts of an individual, not by membership in a group (definition made up on the spot, probably flawed). I’m not convinced that it is incompatible with racism or sexism. Enlightened people reject racism/sexism because the weight of evidence says that psychological differences within groups outweigh differences between groups, not because individualism decrees a priori that it must be so.

Have I missed something?

I intentionally glossed over the distinction between personal groupism (treating members of the outgroup differently in one’s private capacity) and institutional groupism (e.g. legal disabilities), partly because the context didn’t specify.

It will be interesting to see whether egalitarian legal principles can survive contact with or creation of

  • autonomous artificial intelligences that are more capable than humans in some ways but permanently childlike in other ways;
  • uplifted animals;
  • aliens in whom the concept of ‘individual’ is fuzzy, such as Didonians (Anderson, The Rebel Worlds), Boaty-Bits (Pohl & Williamson, Farthest Star) and Tines (Vinge, A Fire Upon the Deep et seq.).

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