On Gift Horses

My criticisms of this essay: http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/11/09/looking-a-gift-horse-in-the-mouth
Authors don’t get to decide the titles of their articles. A lot of those articles had more substance than the pseudo-Nietszchean thing Scott was pointing to. Though I agree the “look at these pampered babies” thing is a common theme. This might be a problem. But there are at least three ways the “they are coddles babies” criticism can be given substance.
It is morally appropriate to ask to be respected, but it is possible to ask for too much respect. Obviously demanding deference and submission from every stranger you meet is asking for “too much respect.” So there are two monsters: Scylla and Charybdis.
Scylla: Showing too little respect.
Charybdis: Showing too much respect.
If the norm is you are never allowed to demand respect, then you will be constantly humiliated and demeaned, and you will have no way to fix it. There is good research showing that how respected you feel highly correlates your wellbeing. (Scylla)
If the norm is, you are allowed to say to someone “you are not showing me enough respect”, but you are never allowed to say in response, “No, I think I’m showing you the appropriate amount of respect” or “No, I think I’m showing you too much respect” then there is going to be no deterrent for ever more demands of respect. And if any sleight, no matter how small, can result in socially sanctioned outrage, it can descend into bullying behavior: “Are you questioning me?!”, “Did you just look at me funny?!” Power corrupts, and an ability to demand ever more respect is a type of power. (Charybdis)
When people say you are a coddled baby, I think they are often saying “you are an entitled baby who is demanding more respect than is morally appropriate.” They are trying to avoid Charybdis which is a reasonable goal.
Not only that, they are often doing simple whataboutery. (“Whataboutery” is saying, “why are you talking about X when there are bigger issues?”) But this is a tricky issue. Whataboutery is sometimes legit! It is not a defense of something bad to point to something worse. But it is at least *sometimes* morally bad to not pay attention to worse things. If I received a paper cut while someone was stabbed right next to me, it would be appropriate *not* to complain. Arguing that whataboutery is never legitimate is tantamount to the claim that one cannot ever divert attention in a way that is morally problematic. Effective Altruism is basically a group dedicated to whataboutery.
Where along the Stoicism-axis individuals or groups should be is a tricky question. As I wrote elsewhere, “I think, in general, more emotional resilience is a good idea to foster for the same reason more physical resilience is a good thing to foster: Things can go bad, and you won’t always have your crutches.” Saying we have too little emotional resilience can be a reasonable prudential concern.
You can steel man the “you are coddled babies” criticism into three distinct and legitimate complaints. When calling the Yale student “entitled babies,” critics are often saying, (1) you are demanding more respect than is morally appropriate, (2) you are diverting attention from worse things in a morally problematic way, and (3) y’all do not have the emotional residence necessary for a healthy life and our colleges should be doing something to fix that.

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