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
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.
Courts and laws
Humans are social beings and we have a sense of justice, just as some furry animals do. This sense of justice seems to be innate – certainly furry animals are not taught it. Young children consider it unfair if they get a small ice cream and someone else gets a bigger one. This complaint has a dose of egocentrism, but also relies on notions of fairness. Fairness means getting one’s just deserts and desserts, and involves reciprocity e.g., one good turn deserves another.
Scruton points out that “law” preexists written law. The original law embodies customs, traditions, and expectations that involve notions of justice/fairness. British common law is an attempt to make implicit law explicit. In this way, the law is discovered, not invented. Even parliament was seen originally as having the function of a court, making commonly agreed upon laws explicit in the interests of resolving disputes.
Common law thus arises organically from the bottom up in patterns of social behavior embodying intuitions of justice. When a judge adjudicates a case he is trying to settle it in terms already being employed by members of the community. Common law represents a piecemeal attempt to solve unanticipated problems as they arise with a degree of trial and error. If a new decision seems to make things worse, then later decisions can modify the law.
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.
With this post, we are happy to welcome philosopher Professor Richard Cocks as a regular contributor to the Orthosphere. Moral philosophy has been the focus of most of his essays published by such sites agreeable to the orthosphere as Brussels Journal and People of Shambhala, and in guest posts here. As befits a thinker who can be characterized rightly as Traditionalist – or, perhaps rather, simply realistic – Dr. Cocks has been interested to understand emotion in terms of the whole, true man. As no man is an island, neither is anything of man really isolable; so that it is at our peril that we neglect or denigrate such of man as the modern age has overlooked. Professor Cocks has been concerned to notice what our commissars have bid us ignore. KL
Culture, in the anthropological sense, is a combination of language and traditions involving values, ideas about education, cooking, family life and public life. Culture represents a certain level of agreement about what’s important, what’s respectable, success and failure and about how one ought to conduct one’s life and treat each other.
Cultures attain their distinctive character by being somewhat cut off from other cultures. There is a parochial aspect to culture. Diversity is made possible by separation. If every culture becomes cosmopolitan, then every culture becomes the same. Diversity within all cultures would mean no diversity at all. So is cultural diversity a good thing? Not if it becomes a global phenomenon, because diversity would be self-nullifying.