Friedrich Nietzsche is a strange mixture of conflicting impulses; so chronically sick that writing was a physical agony for his eyes and his stomach permanently bothered him, yet he wrote paeans to the strong and mighty. A brilliant analyst of resentment, he had every reason to feel ignored being unread during his lifetime and self-publishing books that he mostly could not sell. He admired Dostoevsky, which itself is admirable, writing in Twilight of the Idols that Dostoevsky was the only psychologist from whom he had anything to learn. Nietzsche first stumbled upon Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground in a bookstore in Nice in the winter of 1886-87 and immediately loved it, though Dostoevsky never knew of Nietzsche. Notes from Underground is psychologically and anthropologically penetrating, exploring themes of mimesis and resentment that were of immense interest to Nietzsche.
Unlike Dostoevsky, there is something perennially adolescent about Nietzsche, perhaps because young adults are often trying to decide what values they should hold, often temporarily in contradiction to their parents, as they prepare to make their way in the world on their own. Nietzsche’s “transvaluation of values” fits this model nicely. There used to be a certain kind of young man magnetically drawn to Nietzsche’s mixture of cleverness, perversity, sense that he had a secret understanding of things, and man alone and against the world demeanor, and perhaps there still is. Continue reading
Cosmic justice: infantile and nihilistic
Social class, home environment, genetics and other factors all contribute to differences between individuals. People differ in looks, height, income, social status, morality, various kinds of intelligence and athleticism, musical ability, industriousness, discipline, and nearly every other human characteristic. Differences in culture, history, and geography generate differences between groups. Being born into a culture that emphasizes hard work, education, conscientiousness, and thrift is a tremendous advantage.
“Social justice” advocates describe the resulting disparate achievements as “inequalities” with the suggestion that these represent some kind of injustice. Unequal achievement is treated as though it must be the result of discrimination, “privilege” or some other unfairness, while it is in fact the inevitable consequence of differences between individuals and groups. These differences will exist no matter how a society is organized barring a race to the bottom where the laziest, least talented individuals set the bar and every achievement that surpassed that pitiful measure got confiscated and distributed – removing any incentive to do anything much at all. Continue reading
Plato’s allegory of the cave appears in Book VII of Plato’s most famous and longest dialog, The Republic. Plato’s dialogs frequently star Plato’s teacher Socrates as a character. The dialogs involved discussions and philosophical arguments between various characters, some of whom were based on real people. Plato particularly disliked the sophists who were professional rhetoricians and who seemed to care more about money and social success than truth. In fact, Plato accused them of teaching their students how to make the worse argument appear better – enabling their students to convict the innocent and set free the guilty.
Sydney Traditionalist Forum today published Political Correctness and the Death of Education – Requiem for a Dream which argues that we in the West are not supposed to prefer our own culture to other cultures and that the culture of repudiation that rejects our cultural heritage as patriarchal, oppressive, imperialist, etc., makes the notion of aspiring to be well-educated a politically incorrect anachronism.
In the nineteen fifties, Lawrence Kohlberg produced a theory of moral development. The three main levels are pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional. In nineteen eighty-two, Carol Gilligan published In a Different Voice that claimed to add a more feminine perspective to Kohlberg’s theories. Gilligan noted that all the subjects in Kohlberg’s scientific studies were boys. Gilligan wondered what would happen if girls were included.
There are some problems with Gilligan’s research. It seems likely that she never conducted any research. She has been asked to produce the data upon which she based her conclusions but Gilligan refused on the basis of privacy. The requester replied that she would be quite happy to have all the names redacted if in fact there were any names or any details that could lead to identifying the research subjects, but Gilligan declined. So, we have no evidence that any studies were actually conducted.
That being said, Gilligan’s claims have some plausibility. Gilligan contends that little boys tend to favor abstract rules of justice and fairness and imagine that morality can best be served by having one rule that applies to all. The example given is of boys playing baseball. Three strikes and you are out. This is just and fair because the same rules apply to each participant with no favoritism. However, sometimes a participant might cry and be particularly inept. When girls were playing, they were more likely to want to make an exception. They felt sorry for the lame duck. Gilligan contends that the girls tended to favor empathy and compassion over impartial abstract rules. Girls’ moral development would tend to go from selfish, then empathetic within the group, to compassion for all in general.
One way of describing moral development is in terms of general levels; egocentric, ethnocentric and worldcentric. One starts with an exclusive concern for oneself, then the group – whichever group one identifies with – then a concern for everyone in principle. The Green MEME liberal has a worldcentric developmental level. Their infatuation with egalitarianism can lead to moral and cultural relativism. No moral perspectives are better or worse – all are equal. The same applies to cultures. Cultures are not better or worse, just different.
Moral relativism implies moral nihilism. If one moral perspective is not better than another and you can’t be wrong, then morality is null and void. Cultural relativism says one can’t compare morally the practices of different cultures. Again, there is no question of moral realism or the notion of objective values transcending cultures.
The goal of cultural relativism is tolerance. It is also intended to avoid ethnocentrism and the claim that my culture is better than your culture simply because it is my culture. The liberal in this instance conflates ethnocentrism with bigotry. This is obviously a mistake. One can have a preference for one’s own culture without simply denigrating out of hand other cultures, just as one can have a special love and preference for one’s own parents or children, without making a moral mistake.
The morally worldcentric liberal and cultural relativist seeks to get rid of bigotry by removing ethnocentrism. Thus they make identification with a group a sin. They want to go straight to the transcendent, bypassing the immanent. This is a form of Gnostic world-hatred. It is the situation of the misanthropist who hates and despises all particular human beings while professing love for “humanity” in the abstract. Here is the moral and metaphysical error.