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Saturday, August 05, 2017

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Hi Bill,

Actually, no, I wasn't thinking of you when I wrote that parenthetical sentence. You've written some very thoughtful posts about hypocrisy, with which I've generally been in complete agreement. I was simply venting my ongoing frustration with pundits, radio hosts, columnists, bloggers, etc. who seem to think they are scoring points by pointing out hypocrisy and inconsistency in people who very clearly fall into the first of your two classes.

In your posts about hypocrisy you've pointed out that men are weak, and argued that the charge of hypocrisy should be tempered by an understanding that is one thing to truly believe in a principle, and yet be unable to live up to it, and quite another simply to pay it lip service for the sake of appearances. ("Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue", said de la Rochefoucauld.")

In light of that, how are we to understand Class 2 when it comes to this sort of political combat? It is easy, perhaps, to understand the drunkard or womanizer who knows that he sins, but is too weak to resist the Devil that tempts him; I think we can say that he sins -- perhaps with genuine remorse or self-loathing -- despite, in your words, "accepting the principle".

It is much harder, I think, to say the same about someone who calls for systematic demonization of Whiteness while denouncing racism, or who calls for "free speech" only for those opinions he endorses. I very much doubt that such people really "accept the principle" at all; it is simply a potent weapon that, here in the modern West, is always close to hand.

I suppose my question is: when it comes to politics, how often is your Class 2 actually instantiated?

P.S.

A naive guy like me comes along, who hasn't fully fathomed the depravity of the leftist mind, and protests their hypocrisy, their deployment of a double standard, the inconsistency of their application of the principle of free speech. And then you point out to me that I am "completely missing the point." My mistake, I suppose, is to assume that leftists share our values, including aversion to hypocrisy and inconsistency in application of standards.

Have I understood your point, Malcolm?

Yes, that was it exactly. Thank you. (But, again, I wasn't really singling you out at all.)

This discussion has been very helpful to me. It has forced me to make explicitly the Class 1 vs. Class 2 distinction, a distinction that stands even if Class 2 is the null class.

>>I suppose my question is: when it comes to politics, how often is your Class 2 actually instantiated?<<

That is a good question. From our discussion I now appreciate that a lot of the people I thought were in 2 are really in 1.

Suppose there is a 'liberal' who really is committed to free speech, but shouts down Charles Murray on the grounds that he is a 'fascist' who would deny free speech rights to non-whites. Such a person would not be in Class 1. He would be in Class 2, right?

It’s worth pointing out that this all arose from an email to Bill venting my frustration against other philosophers who were using these Alinskyite tactics. On one occasion, the person, who is a distinguished philospher, refused to look at a publication I had cited because he judged it to be right leaning. I thought that unphilosophical.

Speaking of ‘unphilosophical’ I came to philosophy in the first place, many years ago, for its acceptance of managed argument and managed conflict as the way of doing business. In philosophy there is a ‘quodlibet’ principle that you are absolutely free to discuss anything you like. No one will question you for raising any issue. Nor will they question who you are or what your other beliefs are. In philosophy, it is the reasons and arguments and evidence for your claim that matter, and nothing else. As Malcolm says, it is ‘a joint, rational inquiry, the purpose of which is to arrive at the truth’. Of course there are strict rules, such as ad hominem about what counts as a valid contribution to the rational inquiry, but these are not rules about behaviour, indeed the ad hominem principle is that behaviour essentially doesn't matter.

So my main concern is about philosophers being unphilosophical. Does that matter? You are a philosopher in class, do you have to be a philosopher out of class? A difficult question, and connected with issues about respect and reputation.

Malcolm,

You've heard the saying, 'Free speech for me, but not for thee.' Consider a lefty who lives and behaves according to this principle. What should we say about him?

A. He accepts that free speech is a high value but is inconsistent in his application of the FS principle; or

B. He does not accept that free speech is a high value or any value (so that, after the Revolution, no exercise of the FS right will be allowed) but cynically invokes the principle now as a mere means to defeat his ideological enemies.

It seems there is a real difference between (A) and (B). Agree?

Very good statement, Ostrich. But you aren't giving me a straight answer to the BOLDED question I pose above.

Bill,

Question 1:

Suppose there is a 'liberal' who really is committed to free speech, but shouts down Charles Murray on the grounds that he is a 'fascist' who would deny free speech rights to non-whites. Such a person would not be in Class 1. He would be in Class 2, right?

Question 2:

You've heard the saying, 'Free speech for me, but not for thee.' Consider a lefty who lives and behaves according to this principle. What should we say about him?

A. He accepts that free speech is a high value but is inconsistent in his application of the FS principle; or

B. He does not accept that free speech is a high value or any value (so that, after the Revolution, no exercise of the FS right will be allowed) but cynically invokes the principle now as a mere means to defeat his ideological enemies.

It seems there is a real difference between (A) and (B). Agree?

In question 1, you've described a nuanced principle that could be seen as a kind of "free-speech utilitarianism", in which free speech is still a top-level principle. In the mind of your imaginary heckler the goal, as described, seems to be to maximize the number of people who may speak freely. In other words, the highest operative principle here is still free speech itself, and the heckler's aversion to fascism only enters the picture as a practical matter, because it works against this sort of utilitarian optimization.

I'm not sure this is inconsistent at all (and neither in class 1 nor 2), but I very much doubt that this is what's going through the mind of your typical college kid yelling at Charles Murray. I think the rationale there (to the extent that reason is involved at all) is much more like "He's bad! Don't let him speak!!" When I speak, as I often do, of modern-day Progressivism as a crypto-religion, I'm thinking of this sort of thing as nothing more or less than silencing the Devil.

In question 2 you describe exactly what's happening all over the West right now. People are getting into serious legal trouble for expressing heretical opinions on social media. I would parse the options a little differently than you have, however:

A. Good old-fashioned Class-1 ruthless Alinskyism;

B. The belief that free speech is not the highest principle, but is subordinate to an even higher one: holy Universalism, the modern West's most sacred belief. Even the venerable Western principles of free speech, rational inquiry, pursuit of truth, stewardship of national heritage -- and indeed, even some of the deepest aspects of our human nature itself -- must be limited and conditioned, and if need be, harshly repressed and punished, if they threaten the central tenets of Universalism (and of salvation through cultural, racial and environmental atonement, this being the only form of salvation the materialistic Progressive mind can any longer conceive of).

We agree about (A), but I wouldn't describe my (B) as cynical or inconsistent; once the structure of this belief system is correctly identified, it's actually quite principled. (I think the principle itself is a horrifying psychological malfunction that is killing our civilization before our eyes, but it isn't inconsistent.)

P.S. Sorry to leave such a long comment. I didn't have time to write a shorter one!

>>Very good statement, Ostrich. But you aren't giving me a straight answer to the BOLDED question I pose above.

It would be hypocritical of me to say 'no' since I have done so myself, at least in certain situations. Example, a colleague recently commended a paper on the grounds that the author was a distinguished lecturer at one of England's most distinguished universities. I replied, 'possibly, but you need to look at who funded his chair'.

However I am not sure about this. The colleague was not commending the paper on the grounds of its content (which was poorly thought through and in parts incoherent), but on the distinguished nature of the author and his institution. I try always to look through such arguments from authority (another form of ad hominem). So perhaps I was right to question the authority. OTOH perhaps I should have ignored the commendation and gone straight to the quality of his paper.

You're not a hypocrite if you do something you believe one shouldn't do -- otherwise we'd all be hypocrites.

Your view, I take it, is that one ought not ever question motives in a debate. But suppose you do it once or twice. That doesn't make you a hypocrite. It is just a case of moral failure. You would be a hypocrite if you preached your view but made no attempt to put it into practice.

Suppose there are two papers on logic, one written by me, the other by Quine. But you know nothing of their content. Would you not be justified in thinking your time better spent on the Quine paper than on my paper? You o authority. But then can't I non-fallaciously appeal to, or point out, the moral corruption of a person to cast doubt on the truth of his ideas?

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