Identity politics is a left-wing phenomenon. It encourages group identification versus the rest. It is centered around resentment, grievance and a sense of injustice. Instead of being American, a person becomes a hyphenated American. Instead of being interested in the good of the inclusive group, moral concern is narrowed to some subsection of Americans.
Identity politics means claiming victim status and victimization requires victimizers. Differences in intergroup outcomes are to be attributed to discrimination against the group that performs less well. Evidence for discrimination, or evidence that should discrimination exist that it is in fact responsible for differing performances between groups, is thought to be entirely unnecessary. Thomas Sowell has an extensive analysis of this irrational phenomenon in books like Intellectuals and Race which I write about here.
Philippa Foot invented the scenario described as the trolley problem. In it there is a runaway trolley that will kill five innocent people. You, a bystander, have the ability to divert the trolley so that just one innocent person is killed instead.
In another version of the problem there is a fat man looking at a runaway trolley from a bridge. If you push him off the bridge he will get wedged under the wheels and bring the trolley to a halt, saving the five people.
Some philosophers delight in the moral confusion generated by the different moral intuitions people exhibit concerning the two cases. People often countenance the lever-pulling but demur from the rightness of pushing the fat man. It is commonly pointed out that the two cases are functionally the same, but that pushing the fat man is more visceral and less abstract, leading to the different moral choices.
In “Why Beauty Matters,” Roger Scruton argues that a cult of beauty that dominated Western civilization for two thousand years was replaced by a cult of ugliness in the twentieth century. Originality came to be considered key, and ugliness came to dominate language, music, manners and architecture.
For anyone interested in a transcript of the video which I have made for educational purposes, write a “comment” telling me you would like one. Since comments are moderated, I’ll catch it and write to you using your email address that editors, but not anyone else, can see.
Thomas Sowell in “Intellectuals and Race” has now been published by the Sydney Traditionalist Forum. I do no more, really, than summarize Sowell’s main arguments and conclusions. If you have read “Intellectuals and Race” this article can serve as a refresher regarding some of the main points. If you have not read “Intellectuals and Race,” the book is not simply a philosophical argument, but presents copious empirical evidence that the causes of problems that many black Americans face have been misdiagnosed and thus the offered solutions are also often misguided.
If the aim is to help actual concrete people, rather than to play ideological games and identity politics, this book should be regarded as a must read.
Free speech is an ideal and a good. It is the nature of ideals and goods that they run up against other ideals and goods compromising their expression.
Plato’s Republic centers on the ideal of justice. By making justice the overriding emphasis of his hypothetical polis, Plato completely removes the ideals and goods of romantic love and familial love. Successful warriors are to be given their choice of mates and children are to be brought up in anonymous nurseries because parents tend to want the best for their children even when their children do not really deserve it.
The Republic is thus a reductio ad absurdum argument. Readers of Plato know that Plato considered love to be very important and love features extensively in The Symposium and The Phaedrus. Plato should not, therefore, be read as actually espousing his utopian city. He is engaged in a philosophical exercise; showing what it would take to have relatively perfect justice on earth while warning of taking the virtue to an excess.
Political correctness is an instrument of oppression and scapegoating most prominently used by academic and political elites and enforced by mainstream news outlets. It is tyrannical, conformist and puritanical. Most egregiously, it is anti-thought. In On Liberty John Stuart Mill writes “Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think…”
An analogy can be made with other forms of despotism. Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia, once he had executed 250,000 people at the beginning of his tyranny, proceeded to be a fairly benevolent dictator. This is no argument in favor of this form of government however because the fact of his benevolence was merely happenstance. There was no mechanism by which he might be removed should his actions become intolerable.
Likewise, counterfactually supposing political correctness had some beneficial effects, there is no mechanism of correction. Political correctness countenances lies and censorship if they be in what is considered a good cause. As many have noted, when it comes to political correctness, the truth is no defense. This means errors cannot be challenged, even in principle, by appeals to facts. Instead, insisting on pointing out inconvenient truths is an excellent way to find oneself being morally condemned.
The one thing God lacks is limitation. Every being that exists is limited. Limitation creates suffering. I would add that overcoming current limitations involves suffering; but limitations will continue and thus suffering will continue. The trick is not to become angry and resentful due to the necessary suffering that existence involves. In the pathological, the anger and resentment at one’s own existence is directed at all of existence in toto, which makes a kind of sense since suffering and existence are coextensive; it’s nothing personal! Peterson sees certain dictators, among others, as ultimately infected with this nihilistic urge for total destruction.
So, suffering is not just part of the human condition, but at the heart of all existence. If it were possible to exist outside of actually being a limited creature, then upon hearing of the existence of a person with even the greatest blessings of health, wealth and beauty, one can imagine sending one’s condolences.
Utilitarianism is a moral theory associated with the Enlightenment that attempts to provide a universal solution for dealing with moral dilemmas. It claims that the correct course of action is that which produces “the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.” The option with the best consequences, defined in this way, is the correct moral choice.
The Enlightenment was a period where many thinkers imagined that social progress was to be achieved through a heightened use of “reason,” and reason meant science. Emulating and trying to join in the prestige of science, utilitarianism focuses on quantitative analyses; what is objective and measurable, to promote the greatest happiness.
Why worry about obedience? In some cases it is a matter of life and death. Do not run into traffic. Do not stick objects into power outlets. Do not touch burners or pull pots of boiling water onto your self. But there is also the matter of just day to day items like getting up, getting dressed, having breakfast, lunch, dinner, music practice, bathing and bed time. Having arguments about things that happen multiple times a day, every day, is a pointless, painful waste of everybody’s time.
When my son was young, perhaps around nine, we had some visitors. I told my son it was time to go to bed and he took himself off. One of the visitors was astounded and commented “you didn’t have a half hour argument!” I remember thinking – “That sounds awful! That would be a daily occurrence.”
This article Consciousness: What is it, and Where is it Found? published in the Sydney Traditionalist Forum offers reasons for thinking that though the brain and consciousness are frequently correlated, the brain does not actually generate consciousness. Oftentimes, the facts are not in dispute on this topic. It has more to do with their implications. When, for instance, there are cases of hydrocephalus where 95% of the brain is missing but the person has no cognitive deficits and is actually above average intelligence, the notion that brain mapping will get us very far seems slim; as does the fact of neuroplasticity where parts of the brain get repurposed after a stroke in a case of top down causation.
Placebos and nocebos seem to have mind over matter implications too and their existence was initially strongly resisted by materialist-minded scientists for that reason – meaning, they actually recognized the non-materialist possible ramifications.
Near Death Experiences also suggest that consciousness can exist without brains which is good news for anyone interested in the possibility of an afterlife. The cardiologist Pim van Lommel provides good scientific reasons for thinking that NDEs have nothing to do with residual brain activity during cardiac arrests or resuscitations. Apparently, for instance, manual manipulation of the heart during CPR is physically incapable of pumping enough blood around the body to restore consciousness, even partially.
The article ends with suggestions about the real relationship between minds and brains, and ideas about the nature and meaning of human existence.