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I’m sure you know this, but the reasons given for lying here are by no means the only ones. I would guess that most lies are motivated by thoughts more like “If I tell X the truth, they will quite rationally and in pursuit of their own reasonable goals take actions I don’t like. So I’ll tell them something else so that they act in a way that suits me better”. But of course that sort of lie doesn’t fit into the framework here (nor is there any reason why it should).
Yeah, people tend to use the term White Lie to refer to these kinds of situations. However, the term White Lie attaches certain connotations of being morally permissible, which Conor might have wanted to avoid. Another way to accomplish this is to write “White Lie” with quotations.
This example is a lie that could be classified as “aggression light” (because it maximises my utility at the expense of victim’s utility), whereas the examples in the post are trying to maximise other’s utility. What I find interesting is that the second example from the post (protecting Joe) almost fits your formula but it seems intuitively much more benign.
One of the reasons I feel better about lying to protect Joe is that there I maximise his utility (not mine) at expense of yours (it’s not clear if you lose anything, but what’s important is that I’m mostly doing it for Joe). It’s much easier to morally justify aggression in the name of someone else where I am just “protecting the weak”.
I do feel those are strongly related (my definition of “appropriate” or “good” differs from theirs), but I agree that it doesn’t fit in with the words I wrote above.
I find myself doing this a great deal when deciding whether to criticize somebody. I model most people I know as not being able to productively use direct criticism. The criticism, however well meant it may be, will hurt their pride, and they will not change. Indeed, the attempt will probably create some bad feeling towards me. It is just better not to try to help them in such a direct way. There are more tactful ways of getting across the same point, but they are often more difficult and not always practical in every situation.
The people I do directly criticize are generally the people I respect the most, because I expect that it will actually be useful to them because they will be able to overcome the impulse to become defensive and actually consider the critique.
I suppose your question indicates that I should try criticizing people more often, as I have gotten into the habit of presuming that people will be unable to productively receive criticism. But, at the same time, criticism is quite socially risky and I am quite confident that the vast majority of people will not handle it well.
I don’t think I would quiiiiiiite recommend criticizing people more often; I agree with your general assessment of the costs and risks. It’s more something along the lines of “own the condescension that you’re dishing”? Something like, I see a lot of people lying or curating and not wanting to admit that there are implications in what they’re doing (e.g. that they think they’re more mature than the other person).
I think that if you know in your own head that you’re taking a stance/making a claim about the other person, and proceed in open willingness to pay that cost (because you think that even with that cost, it’s the best available move) then I’m on board with what you’re doing. I think it’s often true that one is significantly/demonstrably more mature or more rational or in possession of better info, and also it’s often true that social consequence concerns limit one’s ability to be candid. I think it’s just important to notice, internally, that one holds these beliefs, because if the beliefs remain implicit and subconscious then they’re much less likely to be subjected to critical review.
I think that the claim here is slightly weaker. It is about the odds. More often than not, there won’t be much in the way of bad consequences or you can patch it up. However, occasionally people will take it really badly and you’ll destroy a friendship or relationship over it.
Yeah, I do think that I can become aware of that implicit condescension of not criticizing and update more frequently on whether someone might be worth trying to help in that way. I’m still going to avoid criticizing as a general heuristic, especially after just meeting people.
I really like the term Toxic Respect. It isn’t perfect as it sounds a lot like respecting someone to the point where you let them take advantage of you, but it captures a useful concept. I tried looking around for other term. I found a bunch of other terms: lionize, idolize, venerate, canonize, put on a pedestal, hero-worship, but none of them quite work as a replacement.