Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Finding the Virtuous Mean, and Vice Versa

Pursuant to yesterday's post about the disturbing docility I found at the commencement ceremony at Bucknell, His Excellency Monsieur le Vicompte la Carte has brought an item to our attention in the Comments area, and I thought it worthwhile to surface it out here.

It's about what it's like to teach Philosophy in a Red State:
Considering the lecture on Plato, you’d think that conservatives would be on Plato’s side since Plato is a Moral Absolutist. Plato argued that "Justice does not entail harming others." Oh, oh, that doesn’t sit well with war-monger conservatives. Regarding categorical imperatives, I equated Plato’s definition of Justice with the Biblical Commandment, Thou Shall Not Kill. What’s all the fuss about? Alas, conservative Christians talk big on the Ten Commandments, but do they really accept moral absolutism?

Given the brouhaha last election over conservative "moral values," I brought up the obvious contradiction between the pro-life position against abortion on the one hand, and on the other hand, unquestionable support for an unjustifiable invasion of Iraq that has led to over 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, mostly children. Moral Absolutism, I argued, calls for CONSISTENCY. Otherwise, if you allow for exceptions, it’s no longer absolute. Make up your minds. Either you adhere to the moral imperative or you’re a relativist.
The Florida bill she refers to, the "Academic Bill of Rights," has apparently died in the Senate, but the picture she paints is still chilling.


blue girl said...

Wow. That post by Jacqueline Marcus was wild. How scary is that? For obvious reasons, I'm glad that bill died.

You put some heavy stuff on your site that stays in my head for days.

The one from Joe Bageant from a few days ago is still rattling around.

From his post: "Each act. . . is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow....But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That's the difficulty. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves, when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. . . .You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things your father. . . could never have imagined."

Will a big shocking revolt happen? Or are we all being tranformed?

The Viscount LaCarte said...

I would have to agree that there are major inconsistencies in the current "Absolutist" paradigm. My error was expecting consistency. People who practice critical thinking realize that consistency is a fundamental aspect of a rational belief system. People who are attracted by this psuedo-Absolutism by definition cannot practice critical thinking.

The people I'm speaking about seek authority for truth. Some of us prefer to seek truth for authority.

The authority figure speaks in absolutes but justifies the contradictions with his authority, and people who subscribe to this accept what the authority figure says as truth.

This is an important component of the Republican methodology. Religious fundamentalists (who believe themselves to be Absolutists) are used to accepting the fantastic and the improbable as undisputed truth. The Bible and the ministers are the authority. The Republican strategists figured out that if they can mobilize these people behind a few simple issues they will have their vote and their support, regardless of their actions.

" Seek Truth for Authority, not Authority for Truth."

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

P.S. My brother once said that The Bible was the "Weekly World News" of the ancient world:

"Moses Parts The Red Sea!"

"Man Swallowed by Big Fish - LIVES!"


blue girl said...

The Viscount LaCarte -- very well said. Love it.

Kevin Wolf said...

The retreat from critical thinking these days is scary, no doubt of it.

Being an absolutist for these folks just means that anything they think is absolutely right, even when contradictory.

Manny Festo said...

Viscount LaCarte is my hero.