I’ve recently been trying to make sense of our concept of the “sacred”, by puzzling over its many correlates. And I think I’ve found a way to make more sense of it in terms of near-far (or “construal level”) theory, a
A big part of fitting in is to have the exact same blind spots as the people around you. That's more important than having the same beliefs as those around you.
For social harmony, you don't have to both agree if you can agree not to examine certain contested areas too closely (aka the taboos). But that can become too rigid for the society as a whole. So you have specialists (people from the top or bottom of the status hierarchy) who are more free to probe the taboo areas.
Seems like your "sacredness" is just one example of this kind of mechanism. "Sacredness" might not be the right word for it, as it encompasses more than this general desire not to examine something too closely.
Medical spending is not really a taboo topic to discuss, although depriving people of medicine due to costs (aka "death panels") is sort of taboo. As is debating who controls the trade-off decisions in making "medical judgments" (particularly doctors vs politicians / business people or even individual doctors v. the medical establishment, patients themselves or other family members).
Of course, just because something is taboo doesn't mean it doesn't happen. In fact, it's probably about just as likely to happen, but people like to keep it firmly within their blind spots so they don't have to acknowledge the distastefulness.
Specialists in their niche communications channels, using jargon, can poke at the boundaries, so society is not completely paralyzed. It generally only filters into mainstream communications though as hypotheticals, edge cases & outlandish proposals, limiting rational public discussion about it.
I'm grateful for this, many thanks. It makes me wonder how it relates to Girard's idea of the holy, particularly how violence fits into it. concreteresurfacingcoralspr...
Gregory Bateson's notion of "sacred" was special situations where one went into a mode of treating the situation as something it's not. Examples are dogs play-fighting (acting as if they're enemies when they're not), fiction (which one "gets into" as if it's real), jokes (which one recognizes and reacts to in a special way), and of course religious rituals. The thing about a religious ritual is that it's full of very concrete, specific and physically close details. It's obviously the paradigm of a sacrament but it seems sort of near, to me.
First of all I found this post clear even though the territory is foreign to me.
Rationalists, skeptics, etc. treat diligence as something like sacred. So there are approving descriptions like, "She did her homework first," or, "He grabbed onto those doctors like a bulldog and wouldn't let go until they gave him a straight answer." Also the ideas of deductive proof or good scientific basis have to do with thoroughness in the face of-- in fact in the pursuit of-- abstractions. But I'm talking about a shared general attitude, not the kinds of goals of particular professions.
There's Sturgeon's Law: "...Yes but 90% of everything is crap," which means a couple things: that ten percent yield is not bad when the thing you're sifting for is really valuable, and also that we often have enough smarts to recognize the good stuff. So one can have the attitude that, e.g., 90% of experts are crappy, but it's worth talking to twenty of them if two of them talk sense. Diligence is a good word for this too.
You didn't say that everyone treats experts with generalized over-respect. But the attitude I'm talking about isn't generalized disrespect either, it's... like... a tendency to make a distinction-- maybe still simplistic-- between a "real" expert and someone unfortunately occupying that role. So, I might one day decide, "This Fauci guy is alright," and from then on believe everything he says.
This pro-diligence attitude also includes a prejudice that unfamiliar areas often have a daunting but thin surface you can punch through. The generality of that makes it sound like a "far" thing itself.
I think this sort of shared diligence sacrament exists. I'm not sure whether it's more like a counterexample to the far-near picture or a special compensatory strategy against a far-near reality.
Alas, I have never been able to get much value out of "construal level theory". I looked at its Wikipedia article. It gives examples of temporal distance - in particular, it lists planning failures and temporal discounting as examples. The hypotheses offered seem very poor to me. I tend to see the bias in planning failures as largely due to overconfidence - while temporal discounting is a result of evolutionary wiring - due to sex and senescence. I would not bother to give the "construal" explanations at all.
The US spends 18% of GDP on medicine because there is a lack of competition among healthcare providers. To have competition, the customer needs to be able to make an informed choice between several different businesses, based on knowing the value of what will be provided and the cost of what will be provided, beforehand.
But in the US, patients are usually not able to know the cost or value of healthcare services beforehand. What prevents them? Several reasons:
1. Hospitals and doctors usually treat you first and bill you later. If you're lucky and prepared you can get a price estimate beforehand, but the healthcare provider is not fully bound to that estimate. "Surprise" billing is common.
2. If you have an urgent health condition, you do not have the time to shop around getting price quotes from different hospitals (even if the hospital were bound to the quote, which it is not). You need treatment urgently, so you have to go to the hospital that is nearby, and pay whatever they demand.
3. Even if you were able to find the cheapest hospital to treat your condition, you have no way to quantify the quality of care you would receive at each hospital, so you cannot perform an effective cost-benefit analysis.
4. You do not know the value of a diagnostic procedure or treatment a doctor says you need. To know that value, you would need to read a lot of research papers about that procedure, and most people do not have the skills to do this. You would have to be a medical and statistical expert. The doctor might not even know; he knows what he can bill your insurance for, but can he correctly quantify the benefit of the procedure? Anecdotally, I once had a dentist conflate a 5% chance of oral cancer with a "fifty-fifty" chance.
5. If you buy health insurance, you may know the monthly cost of the insurance, but you do not know the value of the insurance to you. You do not know your chances of getting various diseases. You do not know the medical benefit of various treatments for those diseases. You do not have time or expertise to analyze the insurance policy structure, that describes how much of each of those treatments will be paid for. Performing cost-benefit on an insurance policy is too complicated for a layman.
All of these factors remove your ability to know the cost and value of medical services you might purchase, which removes effective competition among healthcare providers and insurance companies. This allows the providers to raise prices, acting like monopolies, with your life and health at stake. And that is why you can be billed $15 for a Tylenol.
really appreciate this, thanks. Makes me wonder about how it ties into Girard and his theory on the sacred, specifically its relationship to violence.
Robin is I think considering priests as as examples of the “experts” he mentions in the paragraph to which you refer.
Of following one's intuition, you say: "It turns out that all of these are correlates of the sacred! We are not supposed to calculate the sacred, but just follow our feelings. We are to trust priests of the sacred more."
I see nothing in the preceding paragraph (about following our intuition) about giving special consideration to special priests of any kind. If every person is following their own intuition, as you imply in for certain situations, the every person is their own priest.
Worth noting that Robin recently flagged a paper that calls into question construal level theory:https://twitter.com/robinha...
This is something way, way outside of your bubble, but Rene Guenon already described this in The Reign of Quantity and Signs of the Times. The analytical method gives rise to perceiving only quantity and thereby losing the sacred, which is pure quality. Though I wouldn't call medicine 'sacred', just important.