The Hendricks controversy, and subsequent reactions.

Today it came out that a contemporary philosopher who holds a high repute in that he has virtually invented a new style of epistemology (or at least termed the notion) known as ‘formal epistemology’, following the likes of Carnap, creating a logically and mathematically oriented approach to philosophy; has made a rather bad boo-boo, in posting pictures of sexually provocatively dressed young women to advertise a Logic course. I’m glad that Prof. Hendricks apologised because I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t intend to cause harm. However the context is far too sensitive to not be aware of the gendered issues around academia, education and the female representation in theoretical philosophy.

I had very strong feelings about this issue after reading so much about the negative experiences of women in philosophy through the ‘What’s it like’ blog, that one of us at Noumenal Realm thought it was relevant to include this development in a single couple of lines on Prof. Hendricks’ wikipedia page. After I came home from work I found that my comment disappeared on the basis of ‘not being based on reputable sources’, and being ‘a tempest in a teacup’. I’m an amateur wikipedia editor and I don’t know much about editing in wiki format compared to other people, but it is my personal view that this story should not be suppressed. I grant that Hendricks did apologise and that should be sourced, but I’m confused as to why this story is brushed out of wikipedia. This is an ongoing issue as wikipedia is constantly progressing, and it may turn out that I’m being a stick in the mud about including this story, of which I’m not apologetic about.

I’ve found a variety of interesting reactions to this issue over the past day:

  • Indignation. This is essentially my response too. Women have a hard time in academic philosophy, and logic is an area where women have issues with visibility. It’s a no-brainer to Noumenal Realm what kind of implications having those kinds of pictures have on the self esteem of say, a woman who wants to work on say, nonmonotonic logics, and is worried about not being around other women in her research area or being taken seriously in research conferences.
  • Dissolution. This response is basically a reaction that the typical prudes are being too conservative and have no sense of humour about this issue. In perhaps another context it might be funny, but male sex and masculinity has a priviledged position in academic logic.
  • Diversion. Perhaps the most bizarre dispute/troll is that people disagree with the blog Feminist Philosophers’ appropriation of the girls as ‘cheerleaders’ but are actually ‘catholic schoolgirls’. Trust a philosopher to quibble on a point like that.
  • Apology. Hendricks nobly took the bullet and stated that his set of photos were related to a magazine article piece he was putting out to improve the reputation of the subject, which Hendricks is very well known for doing in his native Denmark.

Maybe there will be a line over this incident and we will all be more aware for it happening. However it is my view that drawing such a line should involve ignoring what happened.


Reading Adorno: “Resignation”

I suspect this will be the last blog post specifically following our reading of Adorno for a little while.  After reading the essay ‘Resignation’  I discovered that Adorno wrote this piece towards the twilight of his life, and it was his final publication . For me, this has a powerful resonance for a variety of reasons. It sounds like the writing of a man who has seen a lot in his life: the fall of Marxism’s theoretical worth; the rise and fall of Nationalist Socialism and the implosion of expressionism and the early 20thC avant-garde, in a way you could say there is a correlation between all of those three things. Marxism and the avant-garde became perverted by ideology through its idealist advocates. Idealism of political ideology is the enemy of Adorno’s last essay.

One of the themes I’ve had throughout my reading of Herr Adorno’s essays is this: if we are to accept Adorno’s cultural vision of the world as an oppressive mechanism of capitalism to promote the status quo, where is the oppurtunity for change, and what are the grounds of its possibility? A related criticism of Adorno is this: in his perspective on culture and his use of a Marxist framework, where is the potential for radical change and challenge against the status quo?

A critique of ‘absolutised’ praxis

I think the one thing that I found amusing is how Adorno refers to ‘the eleventh thesis’ (my personal ideosyncracy) as ..Feuerbach’s ‘eleventh thesis’. Adorno has become so tired of hearing this dictum that it has become a painful dogma of any Marxist thinker. In the essay ‘Resignation’, Adorno answers the common question that he apparently got: why is there no scope for radical reform or activism in his theoretical view of culture and society. In a sense, Adorno does not answer this but instead critiques the presumed view that praxis must accompany theory. Adorno makes the following specific points:

  1. Extreme action in the name of radical social change is a form of resignation
  2. Those who emphasis praxis so much tend to be ‘light’ on theory
  3. Those who say praxis must accompany theoria place an arbitrary limitation on thinking; a form of suppression
  4. ‘Absolutised activism’ is an activity which accepts the impossibility of the change such advocates try to promote, in that way it is a form of pseudo-activity where the only form of response to the status quo is reaction. This is basically the equivalent of someone shouting as loud as they can at poor customer service when they realise nothing will happen through this activity of shouting, but their indignant reaction is the only limited option they have, for their theoria limited minds.
  5. ‘pseudo-activity’ as Adorno calls the overly excited activism of a person who is too much praxis, not enough thought, is a form of resignation, an acceptance that by creating an immediate action to the present, they cannot resolve the disconnect between their lofty idealism of a utopian world, with the status quo. Adorno considers ‘political acts violence’, and anarchism as examples of ‘pseudo-activity’
  6. Adorno considers this form of resignation in Freudian terms: to regress one’s understanding of the world to simplistic terms and overly simplistic means of achieving a satisfactory outcome is a sign of dissatisfaction or acknowledgment of the impossibility of change. Or as Adorno puts it:

“The feeling of a new security is purchased with the sacrifice of autonomous thinking. […] According to Freud [..]whoever regresses has not achieved the goal of his drives. Objectively viewed, reformation is renunciation, even if it considers itself the opposite and innocently propagates the pleasure principle”

Adorno calls out two ironies. Firstly, that so-called critical discourses of Marxists and activists, genera, are so keen to uncritical simplifications. Secondly, Adorno would point out the irony that those who would be so eager to critique him for proposing no means of radical reform or change are themselves the people who are resigning their fate to the status quo. Their extreme political actions are an acceptance that they will achieve nothing. To paraphrase Doctor Johnson, absolutised praxis is the last resort of a scoundrel. Where is the critical thinking in the arbitrary division of labour between praxis and theoria? If we are to say it is 50/50, any reason we have would be arbitrary. If we are to take praxis in any way seriously, we have to take into account what the analysis says, or allows for political and social change. To limit theory in this way of emphasising praxis is to cease critical though. Activism becomes terrorism, both terrorism of the intellect and literal terrorism.

Let’s not sidestep this issue

Adorno is asked a question about the space for political action in his theoretical world, and does not answer it, instead sidestepping into an interesting critique at the uncritical and untheoretical aspects of people who would call themselves critical theorists. I think its interesting how Adorno dedicates an essay to one of his most important criticisms, and yet refuses to answer it! Maybe I can do a bit of archaeology here and mete out an answer to this question. To repeat the question: Why does Adorno propose no form of political action or model of change to the capitalist status quo? I think this answer would take place in the theory, or to put it in other words: there really isn’t much scope for social change.

Adorno makes the point in ‘Resignation’, that thinking, and ideas are the most powerful form of criticism. Feminists circles would perhaps call this ‘consciousness raising’, and many in such circles see this as one of the first steps in feminist activism. Adorno’s vision of the world is fundamentally pessimistic. Adorno follows an ethical philosophical pessimism of the likes of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. Adorno’s pessimism has a sociological bent as well, following the likes of Max Weber’s take on the role of (instrumental) rationality taking over the industrialised world, Weber himself, I think, was influenced by Nietzsche. The reason that there is little scope for change is that capitalism subverts even that which was subversive to the status quo, that is the essence of the culture industry.

With success and a greater engagement into established channels of the means of production, we see former revolutionary bands like Judas Priest or Megadeth who capitalised on highlighting the disenchanted youth of their respective 1970s and 1980s, have become whirring tools in the capitalist machine. Their degree of social critique is still present, but within the confines of their means of production. It is fair to say that Adorno allows a theoretical possibility for social critique and by extension, social change. Adorno would also think that each new innovation that came, and that will come in the future, will provide new ways of social challenge (consider the way that social media can be used to organise protests), but these new means also provide new forms of control (consider the way social media claims more ownership on your information, advertises to you more aggressively and can be controlled by external agencies). The culture industry is clever, and will always find new ways of making money and controlling social space.


Feminism, a counterpoint: On bell hooks’ ‘Feminism is for Everybody’

Since the blog ‘A Year of Feminist Classics’ started their monthly online reading group last year, I’ve tried to follow a few of their books that I could find easily. In this post I will consider Feminism as construed by bell hooks in the book ‘Feminism is for Everybody’. In particular I will frame her understanding of feminism in a way that is completely antithetical as a response to social and cultural inequalities to my favourite social thinker: Theodor Adorno

bell hooks defines Feminism essentially as a commitment to the end of sexist oppression. This is such a vague definition it allows for a variety of feminisms. One of the overriding themes of hooks’ book is that there are different kinds of feminisms within the unitary aegis of the label ‘feminism’. Once the influence of some feminist ideas and social and legislative reforms came to pass, a counter-discourse, or several counter-discourses emerged to critique the former reformer feminists as disingenuous and appealing to their sense of priviledge. Priviledge and the appeal to priviledge is something I don’t quite understand in this literature, but it serves as a way of pointing out how one form of oppression may take place even in a critical discourse.

There are at least three ways in which my experience of reading hooks’ ‘Feminism’ is utterly different to my ongoing read of Adorno. Firstly, Feminism, much like Liberation Theology or the committed socialist Marxists, consider activism and social reform as essential to the movement, as well as the ‘theory’ that underlies it. Secondly, feminism is distinctly optimistic. Thirdly and finally, feminism, according to hooks, has a commitment to accessibility in terms of the understandable nature of the ideas and proposals addressed, and in co-opting all people (women across all divides and men).

Feminism as praxis; Adorno as theoria

Feminist movements, feminist literature and feminist ideas, in its 19thC inception through to today emphasise activist activity. To call for the end of sexist oppression is to call for a state of affairs in the world. Feminism shares much with Marxism in that it calls for action and change, as well as a theoretical understanding of the world (cf. Feuerbach’s 11th thesis).

Action is important, because what is wanted is a better world. This may seem obvious to some but one must appreciate that there are many who are invested in the status quo for a variety of reasons. It would seem according to hooks, that there is a certain amount of division of labour within the feminist movement, there is a place for all levels of activity, from theorising in the academy, to large scale reform and grassroots movement. hooks calls for feminist television channels and radio for example. Since the book was written in 2000, I wonder what the author would think of Anita Sarkeesian’s ‘Feminist Frequency’ or the influential role of the bloggosphere.

The role of praxis seems almost entirely absent in the work of Adorno. Adorno is committed to the analysis of culture and the way in which the oppressive nature of capitalism is maintained through mass media (the culture industry). By contrast to the likes of Horkheimer or Mercuse, Adorno seems distinctly committed to the all encompassing influence of capitalism in such a powerful way that the reform towards more egalitarian relations is increasingly difficult to achieve. Adorno is, as I would bluntly put it, a Marxist without the communist revolution. It is very much in following his intellectual forebears Weber, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, pessimistic.

Optimism versus pessimism

Feminism strives for a better world, and it should be said that the conditions have vastly changed in the reform of the social, legalistic and economic conditions of women. hooks points out that these changes for women should raise the question ‘changes for whom?’. For example, the place of contraceptive measures has liberated the sexuality of many women in allowing them to be more forthcoming about their sexuality, but this is only for a section of the female population for whom contraceptives are affordable or culturally viable. Even when advancing the dialectic of feminist critique through class, ethnic and lesbian discourses, reform is implicitly implied through advancing the feminist conversation. Inherent to the feminist cause is the possibility and actuality of social change towards the elimination of sex based oppression.

This is an interesting counterpoint to Adorno, who leaves very little in the sense of social and economic reform. There are glimmers within Adorno’s thought to suggest that there is a limited possibility for social criticism in culture, and even though Adorno addresses a largely different discourse to gender inequality, he hardly thought that radically positive change would happen in the condition of capitalism. Adorno takes an almost Kantian turn in looking at the conditions of possibility when it came to the mass media, and in looking at the conditions of possibility for the subsuming of culture under capitalism, also sets the conditions for its downfall, and such conditions are far too tight to give much optimism about change.

The role of accessibility

The most amusing aspect of comparison is accessibility. There are two senses of access that hooks considers. Firstly there is the accessibility of understanding, that feminism as an idea is presented in simple readable language that people can understand whatever their education level is. hooks even suggests the importance of audiobooks for promoting the message to the non-literate, I’m quite a fan of the audiobook as a medium. hooks insinuates at various points that while the presence of feminist academics is a great way of establishing institutional status and credibility for the movement, there is a risk of alienating their materials in the technical jargon and difficult language of the academic that prevents the ordinary person from reading and understanding it.

I have a few things to say about the importance of certain insights from feminist theory, namely, the role of sympathy, and the benefit of gender reflexibity on the history of philosophy or the methodological insights that can come from a gender sensitivity to the construction of knowledge, but I’ll leave that to another post perhaps as that is not confined within hooks book. To be an intellectual within an activist movement means to communicate to an audience who has a set goal for a concrete outcome, as such, communicability is vital. Accessibility is deeply linked to activism. I have noticed on the occupy websites for instance that one of their ground rules is to aim to communicate in a way that is understandable for many people.

What of Adorno on this regard? Well, Adorno is notoriously difficult to understand and I think that is what motivates much of the criticism from many later people to call him ‘elitist’. Adorno’s alleged elitism comes from the influence of philosophy and social theory; psychoanalysis and serialist modernism. To understand Adorno’s critique of society means that it would help to also understand expressionism. Were it not for my interest in Kant, sociology and the music of schoenberg, as well as my cultural outlook that despair is the most fundamental expression relevant to the contemporary world, I probably wouldn’t read Adorno. I hardly keep accessibility in mind when I am familiar with many of the authors and ideas that he refers to (but not all, it should be said).

Adorno writes as an academic. Adorno even acknowledges his priviledge as an academic author in the essay “Free Time”. There comes a point in understanding an issue where it is necessarily complicated, and being impenetrable to the general public seems a distantly difficult goal. This is of course, the goal of anyone who tries to publically promote an academic discourse, many do so by glossing over certain things or just getting to the punchline. For many issues this is not very easy. I wonder if there is a link between his pessimism of social change to the difficult way in which he writes.

hooks uses accessibility in a second sense, in trying to get more people involved with feminism and that they can see it as something relevant to them or something that they can contribute to. One thing that I find interesting about hooks’ other sense of accessibility is something I did not suspect, namely men. Men are apparently important to the feminist movement. hooks states that men can help in a few specific aspects, through activism and through their everyday understanding of the world through gender (for instance, if they are involved with the upbringing of children or engaged in relationships with women). As a man reading this book, seems to me that it is important to be self conscious of gender, not only in observing it in the world, but in one’s own behaviour and beliefs.

Final Remarks: other aspects of feminism

In self-reflection, we need to take account of our own internal sexisms, this may be learned or developed. Sometimes the perpetrators of sexism are themselves women, and the battle to eliminate sexism may involve confrontations with women upholding patriarchy. Reflexivity is a crucial aspect of the movement, and I would say further, any activist cause. Consciousness raising is a related and important aspect of the feminist discourse. In identifying and calling out instances of patriarchy or the cultural assumptions present in culture, we may discover the underlying values and ideology of the discourses in everyday life and the mass media. Consciousness raising is an aspect of the feminist cause that is perhaps the most understandable to a wider audience, for instance noticing how children’s products are marketed differently between the genders, or how toys for children reflect cultural assumptions such as the passivity of females and the activity of males.

One ongoing theme of my own thought is the important role of pessimism, both in the sense of (a lack of) positive social change as well as in the Schopenhauer sense of an ethical insight to frame one’s life. My growing interest in feminism comes from consciousness raising, but it may stop at the way it conflicts with my pessimism. In emphasising the activist component of the feminist movement, hooks frames the disagreements between feminists as a dispute on the way to achieving the shared goal of eliminating sexist prejudice. Certainly more can be said on the theoretical import that feminism might bring, but perhaps I’ll leave that for another post. I find it really refreshing and challenging that feminism for many people is an activist cause rather than an armchair pursuit. Many feminist identifying groups have been very good at the DIY punk style ethic of activism. But will it stop me from being a pessimist? I’ll leave that for future posts to try and work that one out.

John Hick (1922-2012)

The news has been going aroud for a few days now that the philosophy and theologian John Hick has died over the last week. Hick’s breadth of topics were wide for a philosopher and the serious interplay between being a philosopher and a theologian (as opposed to one merely interested in issues of philosophy of religion) is very rare these days. My experience with Hick’s work came from his Christology and Eschatology initially when educated by the Jesuits.

At university, many people I was around would often speak of the ‘elephant’ analogy in casual, interfaith and non-theistic circles. The agenda of theologians and religious officials to take seriously the issue of pluralism and the engagement with other faiths was one taken seriously by one of my own theology lecturers at the time, Gavin D’Costa. The issue of other forms of Christianity as well as non-Christian religious believers reflects the ways in which diverse people engage and find common ground between each other, as well as within their own framework of belief, try to establish an understanding of their beliefs in relation to others. By taking a serious interest in the issue of religious pluralism as well as the great influence of his ideas, even among those who would vehemently disagree, Hick has made his historical mark as a prominent philosopher/theologian.

After university, I came across the issue of religious again, as I worked for a period in an interfaith setting, from the initial level of theoria to praxis, I found myself engaging with people who genuinely do find common ground yet disagree, and in their work on the ground in urban areas attempt to address the issue of how to deal with those of different faiths. I heard many experiences of how many faith, cultural and community representatives have come to deal with awkward disagreements or innocent questions from people unfamiliar with their religion.  Although many of the people I worked with engaged with vastly different approaches to religious pluralism to the likes of Hick, his ideas were often in the background.

Kant’s First Critique: The Transcendental Analytic

Kant’s chapter on the Transcendental Analytic is concerned with the positive role of reason. The cognitive psychology of Kant’s epistemology is of a large mental architecture which seems quite complicated for textual reasons as well as its own consistency. The idea of the big scheme is so prevalent in the Kantian philosophy, that even the exposition of this idea takes place within (wait for it)…a big scheme.

The essence of the Transcendental Logic was to point out that underlying most everyday experience is an underlying scheme, the Transcendental Analytic is, in Kant’s terminology, the explication of this scheme. Analytic, as a term means something akin to ‘taking apart’, which is what Kant attempts to do for the non-empirical component underlying of everyday experience. Another idiom of Kantian termology is that ‘deduction’ means something more akin to ‘demonstration’ or ‘proof’ of the items of Kant’s analysis. I note this because it is part of Kant’s critical philosophy to consist of an analytic to precede a deduction.

Kant establishes a few terms as part of his architecture. The Understanding contrasts to Intuition. Thought contrasts to Sensibility. The Understanding exists as an independent role from Sensibility.  An everyday perception would be the unity of the Understanding with the empirical component.

The Understanding

One feature of the Understanding is that it exists as an entirely independent entity from Sensibility, even though it co-opts with sensibility in the construction of everyday experience. A fundamental idea of the Understanding is that it is organised in a system. Because of Kant’s strict notion of the understanding of apriorism, he maintains that the understanding must form a system and the workings and relations of this system is discoverable a priori.

Logical features

To discover the workings of the fundamental aspects of this cognitive architecture, Kant essentially boils everyday perceptions idealised as propositions, to find the categorial features of what underlies them. In this way, it seems, Kant discovers the fundamental logical structure of the understanding. I’ve used the word ‘logical’ here, and I relate to my view (and Destre’s) understanding of what logical means.

It is in my view, as well as Destre, that the notion of ‘logical’ refers to what really means ‘categorial’, by categorial, I understand the fundamental aspects of reality which are so fundamental that they consist of constraints upon our understanding. It is for instance, the case that we understand terms as true or false, or even in between; we understand alethic modal terms, or other kinds of modes such as temporal terms or intentional terms. The one thing that unifies all formal logics is that they attempt to bank on a collection of fundamental categories. Alethic logic uses terms such as necessity; deontic logic pertains to intention while we might say that classical logic commits to the bivalence of the world being organised into true and false propositions. I consider this sense of ‘logical’ to be important because it is in my view that preseves a body of knowledge in a tradition spanning Aristotle to Frege, if we look at logic as a notion of the fundamental categoricity of reality, we subsume it as a form of metaphysics, and modern logic would continue as the ‘analytic’ of those terms.

The rule of three

One thing that really confuses me is that Kant organises the categories as a table, and each category has three branches. The table of elements is resoundingly similar to Aristotle’s categories and Kant acknowledges this. Kant considers Aristotle’s categories to be flawed however, where Aristotle elicits 10 categories, Kant expresses 12. Kant links the categories through distilling empirical linguistic claims and in doing so forms a table of judgments, these then have a more fundamental rooting on an isomorphic table of categories. The categories and judgements consist of genii: quality, quantity, relation and modality, within these are three specii.

What I find interesting about this table structure is that it exemplifies itself in some ways. The categories exemplify unity and plurality, Kant noted earlier in the Analytic, that unity is a fundamental idea to the understanding, but is it the most fundamental? Is it possible for instance, that one category precedes the structure in importance, or constrains it?

If we are to agree with this structure of the categories, it would essentially detail the structure in which we study metaphysics. Kant says that his intention of philosophy was to classify these notions but not to go much further with them. If we understand the archictecture of reality, there is still much more work within it to bring out its details. Another way to describe this is that we could say that Kant is creating a demarcation of subjects, in the same way that say, we understand the demarcation between pure and applied mathematics; astrophysics and microbiology, and even though we see their differences and appreciate why they are so fundamentally different, there is still much work to be done in the individual areas of pure mathematics, or microbiology. It is hardly the case that once we know the structure of reality or metaphysics through the table of categories, there is nothing more to be said about say, necessity or parthood, but what could be said by virtue of the table, is that those metaphysical features form part of a greater system.

With regard to the specific categories and judgments elicited in the table, I cannot get my head around the motivations for some of them. I would grant the importance of modality or perhaps quantity, but ‘relations’ could be realised in several other ways, and each particular branch should have, if we are to be convinced of this system, a description of why we should be motivated for the specific categorisation, instead of another one which may explain multiple categories all at once, the category of ‘community’ or ‘reciprocity between agent and patient’ seems the most arbitrary, and Kant does little to convince us of why this should be a category. Even if we accept Kant’s category scheme, there is a rational burden to convince us why each category should be considered on individual merits, instead of by its weight in place of the system.

Michael (following conversations with Destre)

[disclaimer: This was incredibly hard for me to read and more still to understand. My post serves as a set of notes for my own indulgence and hardly any definitive kind of reading, I am all very likely to change the way I’m reading Kant as I gain more insight or read it again and I do not assert this reading with any confidence at all, this chapter was a beast to read.]

Popular Opinion is so hot right now

This week I have had, except for fatigue, one unifying theme underlying many of the things I’ve observed, and that is the influence of public opinion. I found out early on in the week that a Knighthood granted to a former banking executive had been annulled. This has been proposed by various government officials over the past three or so years, but I find it so interesting how blatantly obvious the public appeal of this decision would be.
Other conversations that I over heard then reminded me of the suggested importance of public opinion. It has been alleged by many, for instance, that one of the republican candidates going through in the state by state elections, does not have an obvious conviction on several issues, in other words, has in the political parlance ‘flip-flopped’ between different positions over his career. There is a distinct impression that these American politicians essentially say what wants to be heard, and as a political strategy, it works very well. According to an ABC national radio broadcast recently, this was the lesson learned by Mitt Romney by his father, that having a firm conviction will undermine a campaign for what is essentially based on population and consensus.

So much seems to be based upon public opinion, and less of it upon the convictions of those who bring deliverance to political decisions, where is the individual, or the informed debate on these issues. As revolutions go on around the world, and continuing battles against the ‘rule of the few’, I wonder exactly how consistent public opinion is. Over the past year in the UK, there was an e-petition to bring back the death penalty, among a large small enough number this seemed popular, and there was a large public opinion some time after the riots to favour brutal and less humane methods of dealing with civil unrest.

Popular opinion is as consistent as the group of people who unify them, in other words, it isn’t really well thought out. To fold to popular opinion is to admit that a consistent or ideological, or even evidential set of decisions are inadequate as a base for decision-making. Perhaps the most peculiar example of public opinion comes from an anecdotal monologue that I overheard, I cannot even remember where I heard it from this week. The monologue went to the effect that the reason that the Church of England is losing so many followers is because they are not following the public opinion about homosexuality and sexual difference. I feel that this thought is a fundamental presupposition failure. To impute that canonic law adheres to public opinion plays almost exactly to the same reason religious ultraconservatives are alienated from public opinion. This is because of their misperception of who serves as the relevant authority. This kind of concession of popular opinion is both the death of a thousand cuts for ancient institutions, as well as the basis of its revival, for those with ultraconservative views.

Perhaps the best though experiment of the failure of ‘design by committee’ comes from the case of the film Robocop 2, when a focus group was invited to redesign Robocop’s ethical programming, which then led to utterly confusing and arbitrary subroutines which led to the metaphorical Robocop to short circuit at the lack of consistency of the general public. There is a difference of course, between a process of change in social views, or even the spectrum of social views, but the failure comes when we take unanimity to the deteriment of what divides a group, something’s gotta give when too many share an view.