John C. Wright's Journal|
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Thursday, July 2nd, 2009
|Lynching is bad but Stoning is good?
Not long ago, when I made some offhanded remark about the superior courtesy of the generation of our grandparents—men actually did used to tip their hats to ladies, and thought and taught that stealing was wrong— a Leftist friend of mine made a reply that astonished me, and opened my eyes to the inner workings of the leftwing mind.
His response was scorn and bile.
To him, the only thing significant about our grandparents’ generation, the folks who worked their way out of the Depression and won the Second World War, was that some blacks were lynched in the South. Those atrocities formed his entire mental picture of all events of the first half of the Twentieth Century, and perhaps of all time preceding.
And because of that picture, no conversation could be had with him on any topic concerning the past. Nothing could be compared to the present day, either for better or worse, or even to point out customs and expectations that were merely different. It was both utterly parochial, and utterly devoid of any nuanced moral reasoning: merely a blanket condemnation of all and sundry.
His reasoning seemed to be that if men of the past prized courtesy, and yet they also lynched blacks, and therefore everything they prize must be bad, therefore courtesy is bad, Q.E.D.
I have heard that the film THE STONING OF SORAYA M is being denigrated and dismissed by some Leftwing critics for the opposite reason: that it is merely cheap moralizing to portray an atrocity of the Sharia law.
Film critic Christian Toto here compiles a list of the complaints. http://whatwouldtotowatch.com/2009/06/26/liberal-critics-stone-soraya/ He quotes from some of the less intelligent of the intelligentsia:
“It takes zero political courage to speak out against the obvious barbarism of public stonings or the oppressive patriarchy of sharia law, but the film whips out the megaphone anyway, eager to extrapolate the martyrdom of an innocent woman into a broader condemnation of the Muslim world.”
Note the paradox. The critic is criticizing the film on the grounds that no one will criticize the film.
” … the worst kind of exploitative Hollywood melodrama, presented under the virtuous guise of moral outrage.”
Note the irony. The critic is publicly morally outraged that someone would publicize a moral outrage.
I have not seen the film, and so I offer no opinion on the merits or demerits of the complaints, aside from the obvious self-contradictions. I have not seen the criticisms in context.
But if Toto’s comment is fair, I cannot help but wonder how these same film critics would react to a portrayal of a lynch mob in dressed bedsheets hanging a black man.
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|An Unexamined Life is Just Not Worth Thinking About
Whoo boy. I think I have heard the most simpleminded argument of all time. It was presented to me in all seriousness, however, so I will answer it seriously.
A commenter here says "Dr. Dalrypmle says that "Human affairs cannot be decided by an appeal to an infallible rule, expressible in a few words, whose simple application can decide all cases. . ." But such a rule is exactly what I'm arguing for. It would have a great advantage over the chaotic state in which we live and which Dr. Dalrymple agrees. It would lessen the burden of toil of man. Thought-work would be eased and we would be able to base all our thoughts on a fundament that need not be questioned. Some people get this through faith; I get it through convention. "
He concludes with these points:"In short, I am a libertarian, and am unconvinced by these arguments for these reasons:
-The desires of individuals are my highest value
-The desire to shirk from complexity and work are almost universal and quite logical
-Therefore, a simple philosophy is warranted
-Libertarianism satisfies all these points.
I must ask him: Sir, did you come by this conclusion by a simple and simple-minded deduction, or did you need to think deeply and thoroughly about it?
Because if you thought deeply and thoroughly about it, you contradict yourself, and betray the fact that you know darn well that a conclusion with no thorough thought behind it is flippant and unsound. If you did not, you have no assurance your conclusions are sound, and indeed you are indifferent to whether your conclusions are sound. In either case, your conclusion, by its own terms, defeats itself.
Let me point out that the desire to avoid the work of thinking can find a far better work-reward ratio by resting on good authority and tradition. The authority has done all the work. Tradition contains the distilled mental effort and experience of countless generations, most of them smarter and tougher than yours. Even better, tradition polishes and crystallizes its findings into custom, written law, and simple maxims.
On the other hand, a simpleminded philosophy or simpleminded law cannot cover all the cases. The main reason why laws are complicated and subtle is because general laws always lead to absurdities and injustices when applied to exceptional cases.
Your simpleminded philosophy has not been time-tested, and therefore this would require additional thought work on your part, and on the part of those who might seek to implement it.
On the other hand, my philosophy, which I have worked out in excruciating details with loving diligence, is firmly rooted in generations of thought by the most brilliant minds of all the centuries of history. It is time-tested. -The desires of individuals are mere appetite
-The desire to shirk from complexity and work is sloth, and shirking from brainwork is stupidity.
-Therefore, a simple philosophy is stupid and leads to stupid conclusions
-Libertarianism satisfies all these points.
|The Desires of Individuals are My Highest Value
This post is related tangentially to the last.
A comment left here made the remark that in a “recent discussion I had with an atheist […] he was unable to posit a single non-religious point that was in any way positive, advantageous, or otherwise non-relativist. When I told him to go and die in whatever way seems best to him, he said that he would go kicking and screaming. Had I decided to respond, I would have said that I see no reason why in a relativist system one should do anything with any feeling at all.”
In reply, another commenter opined "You do things with feeling because you have feelings for those things. Eat because you're hungry, love because you love, work because you feel dissatisfied with idleness, or because you need money to eat, learn because you're curious, fight for justice because you're outraged, or because you have an eye for your own rights and safety.”
He continues: “I've never understood why this is so hard to get. You do what you want because it's what you want to do, that's what wants *are*. No, there's no materialist philosophy telling one what to want, ab nihilo. This is not a flaw."
This reply is inadequate. The first comment, in effect, is asking what warrant one has for taking one’s mere feelings and appetites as a given, and the second comment, in effect, is answering with wide-eyed simplicity that one must take one’s feelings and appetites as a given because nothing else is imaginable.
I can only assume man behind the second comment did not really understand the question, or that he means something other than what it sounds like me means. But if it is not a flaw that no materialist philosophy tells one what one should or should not want, this implies that philosophy ought not rank, order, judge, condemn, praise or blame any appetite or feeling. The mere fact that a given appetites exists at all is sufficient warrant and justification to act on it.
Because I do not believe anyone in his right mind could actually mean this, let me argue not with the man, but with the comment.
The comment means one should take one’s mere feelings and appetites as a given, as a standard beyond question, and beyond criticism.
Let me offer ten quick reasons why they most certainly cannot. ( Collapse )