The Game as Anti-Handicap

It never occurred to me that The Game was is built like a Bible. Same style of cover, red lash, Holy Bible feel. Was Ryan Holiday behind this? Recently I have been thinking about how Conversation Deliberately Skirts The Borders of Incomprehensibility.

The Game chronicles Neil Strauss’ adventures in the pickup artist scene. Neil was never particularly good with interacting with women and his initial skepticism of the pickup community. With that he has most people’s confidence. Neil encounters a number of the figureheads of this niche movement, who all happen to go by corny names. First there’s Mystery and there’s Herbal, Durden … The book is part strategy, part ethnography, and part autobiography as Neil finds himself becoming one of the figureheads himself.

The pick up artist community is basically a hodgepodge of people who spend a lot of time picking up women, practicing picking up women, and thinking about picking up women (though there are versions of the community focusing on pickup up men as well). They focus on tricks and hacks to dating and hooking up in a pseudo-empirical fashion.

 As far as advice given by the representative of the movement goes, much of it misguided, some of it is decent. The advice is optimized for bar and club environments. Very alpha male. I don’t doubt are successful for some people in some environments.

Most people’s reaction to the community: these people are odd and creepy. They are losers (in part because they need to practice), they make field reports, and they are kind of misogynistic.

Pick up artists don’t pay the costs of personal interaction, in particular, they don’t handicap themselves to the extent that normal people do. In a way, their practices are instrumentally rational. They want to get laid / get a girlfriend / whatever. Their methods are a semi- psuedo- rational way of approaching that goal. It probably has better “results” than what most people would get with their personal status quo. But probably not the best (candidate?).

But people who approach dating with heuristics and tricks are seen as playing tricks as dating rituals demand is handicapping — no planning, no “top 10 ways to get laid”. Top 10 articles are fine for getting a job — that’s a different field. In dating, we demand a kind of irrationality to improve the quality of information.

Links: Gender, Economic Progress, War, Caplan

BLM: A Missed Opportunity

The problem with the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) in the US is the tone of its members. What is their tone like? Angry, accusatory, self-righteous, smug, and the list goes on. But wait, you might say, everyone—not just active and protesting BLM members—ought to have this tone about these issues. We know there are unjustified racial disparities in criminal sentencing, police behavior, housing opportunities, and in countless other domains, and we should not stand by, all apathetic or meek about what is rightfully owed. If you are not angry, accusatory, self-righteous, and smug about this, something is wrong with you!

This perspective certainly has an element of truth to it. I’m certainly not going to deny that some of these racial disparities exist. However, it misses the point. You have to ask yourself: what is the goal of BLM? Well, obviously, to solve the sort of problems mentioned above. But who does the movement need to convince and rally in order to solve them? Here’s where things get more complicated. There are two main candidates. The first is black people. I doubt this is the right answer. Why? In short, black people are already convinced that these problems are problems, and they are powerless to solve them. They are already convinced because most of them have been experiencing these problems firsthand their whole lives. And even if they themselves are fortunately unaffected, they know people who aren’t so lucky or they are descended from people who weren’t. The purpose of BLM couldn’t be to convince black people because they already know what’s up.

As for the point about power: what better proof of black people being largely powerless to solve these problems could there be, if not the existence of the problems themselves? Assuming, as I have suggested, that black people are—by and large—convinced of the existence of these problems, if they had the power to solve them, then why haven’t they done so? It’s the same reason that the problems exist in the first place: black people don’t have the means to solve them. Hell, this is almost a premise of BLM. Black people are systematically discriminated against because they are systematically excluded from controlling their own lives.

Still, one might object that the point of BLM is to rally black people in such a way that they have never been rallied before, such that they can finally solve the problems themselves. The past is no guide to the present, one might say, because never before have black people been so woke. I don’t know what world this objector lives in. If you think the solutions have much to do with the actions of governments, then you must realize that black people will never remotely be a majority in this country, excepting some very limited locales. You can convince all the black people you want and they won’t be able to substantially change the laws or the way the laws are enforced. Alternatively, if you think the solutions must largely flow from changes in the way people treat one another or, more specifically, treat black people, then surely it’s not black people who need to change. Maybe there is some black on black injustice, but this isn’t really the problem at hand.

We are left with the second candidate for who needs to be convinced and rallied to solve these problems: the society at large, including many white people. And so we come to the tone of BLM members. It takes little social observational skill to see that there has been, in many non-black quarters, a negative response to BLM. BLM members will say that this is because racism has deep roots in the US, and when racism is noted, racists (whether they are conscious of their racism or not) respond negatively. I would like to suggest that this explanation is a poor one. It is certainly an uncharitable one. A better explanation is that the tone of BLM members is not the appropriate one even if they are completely right about the nature of these problems. The fact is that humans of all shapes, sizes, and colors do not respond well to condemnation, particularly if it is conveyed with an angry, accusatory, self-righteous, and smug tone. It is good that BLM members are calling attention to the aforementioned problems, but they must realize that if these problems are problems, then they are to some degree problems with the people who constitute society at large. There is no police brutality without police being brutal. People aren’t stupid—they realize that you are condemning them, and they don’t like the way you are going about it.

One reason they don’t like the tone of BLM members might be that they think that they are not personally responsible for any of the noted problems. Surely this is true in some cases. But I think the main reason they don’t like the tone is that they are humans. No one likes to be talked to in that way and bristling is a natural response to it. Whether it is right in this case to bristle or not, people are bristling. This fact alone means that the tone needs to change. People respond better to a more conciliatory tone, so BLM members should assume one. Supposing, that is, that the BLM members actually are seeking to solve the problems that concern them, and they are not merely signaling.

The issue is that it is much too late. BLM came out the gate with the wrong tone and will be forever associated with it. Indeed, the name ‘Black Lives Matter’ is the ironic embodiment of this issue. The name itself is exclusionary and divisive. No matter how loudly BLM members insist that the name has been misinterpreted, no one will believe them because of their tone. It might be true that the name was not intended to be taken in an exclusionary or divisive sense, but that is how it will be seen because of how the members of the movement have conducted themselves. It seems almost designed to make people bristle. It’s no surprise that other response movements called ‘All Lives Matter’, ‘Blue Lives Matter’, and so on were formed in response—the BLM movement has never tried to portray itself as seeking unity, so why should others meet them halfway? They might as well rally together to defend their own interests.

Yet, some degree of unity is needed to solve these massive problems. As I argued above, black people alone cannot solve them, for otherwise they wouldn’t be problems. So where does this leave us? Well, it looks like BLM is a movement that has irrevocably damaged its effectiveness due to its tone, and there’s no going back. BLM members may have gained from the existence of BLM. It may cause future movements that are more effective. Nevertheless, the main goal of a sociopolitical movement like BLM is to have an immediate effect on the problems that it identifies. It’s hard not to conclude that BLM was, in essence, a missed opportunity.

Ben Carson’s Comments on Poverty

United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson caused a hubbub amongst Democrats and Democrat-leaning political commentators this past week. Here’s what he said on SiriusXM’s Town Hall hosted by Armstrong Williams:

I think poverty, to a large extent, is also a state of mind. You take somebody who has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street and I guarantee you, in a little while, they’ll be right back up there. And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world, they’ll work their way back down to the bottom. So, a lot of it also has to do with what we teach children because parenting is a very difficult job. You have to instill into that child the mindset of a winner if they’re likely to become a winner. If you’re always telling them they’re no good, they’re rotten, they hear that constantly, they see that around them. Then, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that that’s where the majority of them are going to go.

That this statement caused a hubbub should not come as a surprise to my American readers. The divide between Democrats and Republicans (and those who affiliate with each party) corresponds to many ideological divides. The one that governs responses to Carson’s comments runs quite deep. This is the divide between those who see agents’ actions as largely out of their control and those who see them as largely under their control. The divide is deep because control is generally seen as a necessary condition on responsibility, blame, and all sorts of normative attributions. Either an agent has control of some action, or they are not responsible for it, to be blamed for it, and so on.

People on both sides of the aisle took Carson’s statements as an indication that he sees agents’ actions as largely under their control. This, however, is to assume two things:

1) That Carson believes that states of mind or mindsets are under agents’ control.

This is a natural assumption, but neither is it explicitly confirmed by Carson nor is it implied. It isn’t implied because he immediately indicates that a large (perhaps the largest?) factor in explaining a child’s mindset is the way that it is parented. Perhaps Carson thinks that mindsets are largely out of agents’ control and his main message here is that parents need to do better to instill the right mindsets in their children. If Carson holds that mindsets govern actions, mindsets are out of agents’ control, and control is a necessary condition on responsibility, blame, etc., then Carson is not asserting that agents’ actions are largely under their control.

2) That Carson is not speaking as an advocate.

What do I mean by this? Well, people in positions of power will often make claims that are not intended to be taken literally. Instead, they are meant to be taken as encouragement. In Carson’s case, if he is speaking as an advocate, we can’t infer that he believes what he says. He may deny that agents’ actions are largely under their control. Still, Carson might speak as if he thinks agents’ actions are largely under their control to effect changes in agents’ beliefs about their control. Parents express strong blame to their children when they do wrong–while knowing that the children have no control over the actions in question–because the expressions of blame (whether warranted or not) change the incentive structure surrounding that action. Carson may believe that whether agents have control over their actions or not, it is better if they believe that they have control.

On the basis of the above analysis, I would like to suggest that the hubbub surrounding Carson’s comments potentially obscures his true intentions or meaning. But the possibility of a plausible and more charitable interpretation of his comments also reveals the reason for the hubbub. Democrats and Democrat-leaning political commentators aren’t trying to be charitable when they interpret and respond to people on the other side of the aisle. Rather, they are encouraging themselves and others to have negative attitudes about Carson, and to believe that he is “the enemy”. Of course, this isn’t unique behavior. Everyone does it. It’s called signaling.

One reason to stop signaling with regard to the issue Carson brings up is this: it’s hard to see how he is not at least–partially–right. Poor people aren’t simply leaves in the wind. They have some degree of control over their income and socioeconomic status more generally. We can disagree about the extent to which they have control over their poorness, but to assume that they have essentially no control would be hard to justify. After all, we assume that they have control in other domains, as when we rightfully imprison them for murder, rape, domestic abuse, etc. Why think that some subset of actions–those that generate wealth, broadly construed–are somehow special?

But the broader question is this: why not play both games? Why not simultaneously say that poor people have some control over their poorness AND assume that they have much less control than they should? Working on both ends of the issue at the same time wouldn’t hurt, especially if it is very useful to inculcate the belief that one has control, regardless of whether it is true.

WikiTribune Sad Must Be Better!!!


Apart from being an icon for reappropriated terms, fake news is viewed as a serious problem. To combat this problem Jimmy Wales, a co-founder of Wikipedia, has founded Wikitribune a “
news website in which professional journalists research and report news stories, and volunteers curate the articles. It’s like Wikipedia for the news, except perhaps maybe not as open. Wales intends this project to combat fake news.

There are two issues with this project. First, a problem about prioritization. Fake news is just not that large of a problem. A recent study found that single fake news stories on social media would have to have a persuasive effect of 36 television campaign ads in order to swing the election. Moreover, note that Fake news is not much of a new problem, there have always been widely disseminated media sources and stories which lack epistemic hygiene to the extent that they become propaganda. 

The second problem is that this project is devoid of ambition. The cause of fighting fake news is a part of the larger project, the pursuit of truth. But Wikitribune doesn’t seem to give us much more by way of truth. The idea: there are professional journalists whose content will be curated by fact checking and proofreading volunteers. At best, this will be marginally better than the New York Times combined with Snopes. Both are great, but they are things we already have.

Wikipedia has given us a wealth of information. It was consistently underrated by my teachers.  But Wikipedia doesn’t come close to what has been made available by specialists. Compare the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy with philosophy pages in Wikipedia. No contest. Wikitribune may be trying to take advantage of specialists, professional journalists, but they have probably selected the wrong class of people. These are the same people who gave us the Times. Even selecting academics wouldn’t be much of an improvement.

What’s lacking is a unique (and better) incentive structure. Organizations like Wikitribune have the ability to take advantage of both specialists and capable volunteers and also experiment with incentive structures that have yet to be implemented in large organizations. If Wikitribune wants to be more ambitious they should go after truth in unique ways, not be distracted by fake news and become an ordinary media organization along the way. 

Cuomo College Catastrophe

David Brooks gives us eight reasons to think that Cuomo’s college is counterproductive. Generally, terrible proposals have between one to three things really wrong with them, the rest is decoration. The sum of decoration can make for distraction. It’s my impression that Brooks’ complaints here are an illustration of this principle.

Cuomo’s college plan, The Excelsior scholarship, makes tuition free at New York public colleges for anyone coming from a family making more than 100k a year. This will save a family making $100k a year, $26k. Not insubstantial. Students must attend school full time and graduate in two to four years to be eligible. This rules out 60 percent of students at four-year colleges.

Brooks’ complaints are:

  1. The law does nothing to help students of poor families making less than 50k a week. Their tuition is already covered.
  2. It doesn’t alleviate any difference to non-tuition fees.
  3. It doesn’t help part-time students.
  4. It demotivates students.
  5. It will, maybe, destroy some of NY’s private colleges as upper-class-middle-class students may be drawn away from them and to public colleges.
  6. More students will apply, which means schools can be more selective, which will continue increasing income inequality.
  7. NY schools rely on tuition to fund programs.
  8. Students have to stay in New York for four years after graduation.

You needn’t read the article anymore!

Brooks seems to think that college should have some cost (otherwise it will be demotivating), but that it currently has too high of a cost for poor families? But also that free tuition isn’t sufficiently motivating to be on track to graduate?

He notes that making college “free” allows schools to be more selective. This is true but schools are already very selective. Over the years, higher-ed schools have become better and better at selecting the top students. While this occurred, the top students are becoming less dynamic and more insulated. That is top students spend more time with each other, clustered geographically and socially, and less time with others. This increases income inequality, however bad that is. What’s worse is that is may decrease productivity.

Brooks concludes:

We’re all focused on Trump, but one of the reasons Trump was elected was that many of the people who try to use government to do good just haven’t thought things through.

Lovely line. But what is the good here that Brooks is after? Making college more affordable for poor students? Why think that that will be good for productivity or decreasing income inequality? He’s right to think, even if implicitly, that Cuomo is probably trying to ride the free school wave for a bit and not much else. But he risks doing much the same on the higher education wave.

I Believe In Free Speech But…

As you have probably heard by now, Charles Murray gave a speech at Middlebury College a while back, greeted with chants of:

Hey hey, ho ho, Charles Murray has got to go

Racist, sexist anti-gay, Charles Murray go away

Brief recap: anticipating trouble, administrators relocated the event “but the dialogue was cut short by loud protesters who slammed chairs, chanted and periodically pulled fire alarms, which shut down the building’s power.” No doubt, the protesters had read The Bell Curve and found the book wanting. Sorry, actually they didn’t have to read it to know that it’s racist nonsense written by a white nationalist that sort of thing is a priori. Anyway, they ended up injuring Middlebury professor, Allison Stanger.  You can read professor Stanger’s comments here.

The aggressors were, like the fascists in Berkeley, probably not students. But let’s not focus on the violence, unfortunate though it is, what deserves attention is that anyone would try to de-platform Murray, SingerPeterson, Mac Donald from speaking at all.

At the Singer event, the manager of campus security “explained that campus security respects everyone’s rights to free speech, including protesters.”

Join the conversation!

This seems to imply that the protestors had the right to drown out Singer’s talk! This is absurd. There is no right to drown out invited speakers, any more than there is a right to drown out local lecturers. Presumably, protestors don’t have a right to shout down Singer when he’s speaking at Princeton — where’s the relevant difference? It’s one thing to hand out pamphlets in front of Singer’s class, write letters to The Princetonian, or demonstrate before the lecture, but another to shout Singer down. Trying to prevent Singer or anyone else from lecturing at all through obstruction is infantile.

The view that the protesters, call them “de-platformers,” are justified has been pretty thoroughly refuted for more than a hundred years (see also Jason Brennan’s thoughts). Free, fair, rational inquiry and discussion is one of the best tools our civilization has. Often debates will be painful and difficult. But it is worth it. And the alternative is unstable, will be hijacked, and has a non-negligible chance of stunting serious progress. 

What then should happen to the protesters who actively shout down, interrupt, or heckle speakers? They should be expelled, put at risk of expulsion, or suspended. It is not yet clear to me yet what the optimal deterrent is, but I suspect it is one of the three above. Importantly, de-platformers should be treated in the same way the academically dishonest are treated. This is not hyperbole, these students are violating the spirit of free inquiry, the pursuit of the truth, and putting intellectual and moral progress at risk. 

In particular, the de-platformer is violating the norms of public universities in the same way that academic dishonesty violates such norms. The cheater is undercutting the spirit of a public university. It would be vastly better if public universities maintain a role of being places of learning and debate. Of course, our universities fail in that role and, of course, it may not be the only function that they possess (the other salient functions being mating grounds for students and signaling to future employers), but what matters is that public universities possess this role. The de-platformer violates this role. And they do so to the same extent that a cheater does, hence they should be treated in a similar matter.

Update: the president of Claremont McKenna appears to agree.

Caplan and Wellman: Is Immigration a Human Right?

Bryan Caplan and Kit Wellman recently debated open borders at USD:

I’ll briefly summarize the main arguments and then offer some thoughts.

Bryan Caplan, of course, argued in defense of open borders. His main argument takes after Huemer’s fantastic work. Sometimes open borders types are made fun of with phrases like “Should everyone be free to move into open borders types houses?” Caplan helpfully distinguishes between 3 views:

  1. Foreigners should be free to live in my house even if I don’t consent.
  2. Foreigners should be free to live in my house if I consent.
  3. Foreigners shouldn’t be free to live in my house even if I do consent.

Caplan’s view is the second. The restrictionists view is the third. But being able to restrict an individual’s freedom to invite others into their house is a bit odd, it’s certainly not something other private agents have the right to do. Caplan doesn’t think the state is any different. We do not consent to the state (as Wellman agrees), it has no justified special powers over our lives (though here Wellman may disagree). Hence, the state should no more restrict my guest’s freedom than other private agents should. Hence, we should be free to hire foreigners, sell them housing, and so on. This right to immigrate isn’t absolute, but the other side has to show that there are compelling costs, which is going to be especially difficult given the economic benefits.

Wellman dissents. Legitimate states have a right to political determination. The right to political determination demands a right to association. The right to association entails the right to not associate, that is, it justifies immigration restrictions.

In defense of this, we think that Denmark can’t just decide to merge into Sweden. This is because Sweden has a right to self-determination. If Denmark wants to merge into Sweden and the Swedes don’t want that, Fuck em. A merger with Denmark would completely alter the political landscape of Sweden. Question: what if the Danish all want to immigrate to Sweden? Maybe a few Swedes are opening their houses up and are willing to sell land to the Danish. Wellman thinks that the Danish have no such right to immigrate, the Swedish state should decide, using a just procedure, whether or not to open their borders. After all, opening the borders to the Danes would completely alter the political landscape of Sweden.

New question: what if Denmark really sucked. Hard to imagine [link], but suppose Denmark was really impoverished and a terrible place to live. Shouldn’t the Swedes open up their borders? Here Wellman takes a disjunctive view. Suppose one’s view of distributive justice entails that the Swedes have a duty to aid the Danish. The Swedes can discharge that duty either by opening their borders or by dispensing effective aid to the Swedes. The real force behind opening the borders, in this case, derives from one’s view of distributive justice, not a right to immigrate.

Wellman’s case is initially persuasive but begs the question. Here’s a matter which would completely alter the political landscape of Sweden: whether freedom of religion is enforced. Should freedom of religion be placed on the ballot or be decided by the usual political mechanisms? No. Because there is a right to freedom of religion. Here putting the law in the hands of the usual political mechanisms is out of the question! But then, why not say the same about immigration. “Because there is no right to immigration”— ah, got it.

To be fair, Wellman probably thinks the positive case for a right to immigration has not been provided. But we’ve been given strong reasons to think that there is an initial or prima facie right to— immigration restrictions are coercive and there’s a presupposition against coercive actions. In other words, violence and threats of violence are bad, we need a good reason to show that violence is justified.

Now the restrictionist needs to show what exactly will be this good reason (or reasons) in the immigration case. Elsewhere Caplan convincingly shows that the usual suspects are not persuasive.

Obligation vs Opportunity

Julia Galef has begun an interesting series called Open Questions. Here’s a sample:

1. When is overconfidence useful (if ever)?

2. Can we intentionally improve the world?

3. Are you motivated by obligation or opportunity?

I want to talk about the last of those questions. There are at least two interesting questions here:

1. Are we obligated to make the world a better place?
2. Is it better to be motivated by obligation or by opportunity?

These questions are largely independent, though Galef seems to blur them a bit. Both could be true. Perhaps 2 is true, but 1 is false.

I’m going to deny an understanding of 1 here and discuss 2 in a following post. However, there will be consistent thread through both posts as we’ll see. 

What do I mean by moral obligation? Let someone, S be morally obligated to X if it is the case that S morally should X or S is morally required to X. Here ‘morally’ just signifies the domain of moral actions. What fruit one should eat, what shirt one should wear, what movie one should watch are (typically) not in the moral domain. Maybe one should wear the appropriate dress to an interview, but that’s not a ‘moral’ should. On the other hand, when we say one should not lie, not kill, but should fight off existential risks, those claims are in the moral domain. Maybe there’s nothing fundamental in the division between the moral part of the normative domain and the pragmatic/prudential domain, that’s probably so, but let’s leave that aside for now.

There is no deep sense in which we are ever required to do anything. Sometimes it may be better to believe that one is required to X, at other times or stages in one’s life it may be better to not have that belief. Let something be morally useful to the degree that that something contributes to moral betterness. It may be better for Alice to believe that she is required to help others because that motivates her to help others more than the alternative. That belief would then serve a moral purpose for Alice, it would be more morally useful than its opposite. But perhaps Charles feels terribly guilty when he inevitably fails to help others as much as he could. Maybe this guilt brings about negative thought spirals that he finds difficult to escape  it would be better for others if Charles didn’t believe that he was required to help them. Claim: there’s no sense in which one is required to X, independent of how morally useful the belief that one is required to X is. Some states of affairs are better than others, sometimes it is better to think of ourselves as required to bring about those states of affairs, sometimes it may not be better to not so believe. Whether this is so will be an empirical matter, contingent on individual’s psychological profiles and the environment that they are in.

Here’s a sketch of an argument for this view. The argument is a reductionist one. In a flashback to the past, suppose we have a few grains of sand, 3 to be precise. We do not have heap. If we add 1 more grain, we will still not have a heap. Same for another grain.

Question: by transitivity, it seems like we will never have a heap, even after continuing this process until we have quite a lot of sand – but surely there are heaps of sand?

One view on this sort of issue, the issue of vague predicates, is that there is a strict cutoff between a heap and not a heap, being dry and wet, being bald and not bald. This view is wrong for the reason that there’s nothing in the world that could make true. Just what is it, what could possibly it be, about some additional grain of sand n that makes its addition to the collection of heaps transform the collection into a heap? Why n grains of sand rather than n + 1? These questions have no answers, which is illuminating.

Here the obnoxious skeptics of philosophy in undergrad intro to philosophy classes have something like the right answer – this paradox reveals tensions in our linguist or conceptual scheme, nothing more. Moreover, whether or not x amount of grains compose a heap at all is not a deep issue that goes beyond linguistic or conceptual matters. Calling certain collections of grains, heaps, is useful but not a deep ontological description of those grains.

A similar paradox applies to value. We think that genuinely helping people is better than not helping them. By genuinely, I mean to avoid cases where we “help” someone, say make them feel comfortable or giving them a handout, in a way that’s bad for them in the long term – I’m talking about cases where we genuinely help another. We aren’t obligated to help other’s in a very small way, we are not morally required to dispense grains of benefit. We can generate a similar sorites paradox here. If we aren’t obligated to dispense n amount of benefit or n + 1 benefit, then it seems like we are never obligated to dispense n + m benefit. One could also run this argument in the opposite direction, asking at what point does the supererogatory become the obligatory?

Just as we denied epistemicism, for heaps we should do it in the moral domain. Once we do this we should ask what makes it true that one is required to do anything at all. What the sororities paradox reveals, or ought to reveal, is that the question about heaps concerned merely conceptual and/or linguistic matters to begin with, empty ideas. Similarly, if it were true that we are morally obligated to give to charity, the idea’s truth would be due to the fact that it would be better if we believe that we have that moral obligation. Whether or not it is better that we believe that we have that moral obligation is due to that beliefs moral use.

Note that this argument doesn’t deny value realism or objectivity (though I’m not convinced that that’s an issue that matters much), but it does deny the idea that moral obligation is a part of the furniture of this world in any substantive way. At the bottom, the moral world is a matter of betterness or worseness. Talk of moral requirements add conceptual and emotional complexity to that picture, a picture of the world that is probably initially useful, though eventually, worse than other pictures.