Month: January 2016

I’m not tolerant

Except that I am.

Okay, let me explain that a bit further. There are some people – the ‘regressive left’ – who practice ‘tolerance’ of other cultures But I fear that I am not one of them, even though this might mean the regressive left tells me that I’m not a liberal.

But I am not here to get labels from other people. I’m here to say what I believe, and for what I stand. So let’s back up a moment and ask what morality might be.

Morality is a sort of value system. And what are values? Well, there are two types of values: instrumental and intrinsic.

Something with positive instrumental value is a thing that helps in the achievement of an intrinsic value or helps to prevent something of a negative intrinsic value. Something with a negative instrumental value is something that helps to prevent something with a negative intrinsic value, or makes something of a positive intrinsic value harder to achieve.

But, what things are of an intrinsic positive or negative value? We can say ‘You ought to value this.’ But what does that mean? What is this ‘ought?’ ‘Ought’ implies ‘Do this, or suffer something of lesser value.’ But that, in itself, presupposes a value system. Therefore, even with intrinsic values, there is no way in which we can say ‘this value system is less valuable than that one,’ unless both we, and those with whom we converse, hold a single set of values in common.

Very well. Then what are moral values? Well, they are a certain type of preference. A certain type of value. Historically, the notion of moral preferences developed with the evolution of human society. However, humans now have an ethical side, in addition to the other sides. That is to say, we have a sort of preference. A preference that may or may not be evolutionarily advantageous. Maybe our morals will be evolutionarily disadvantageous. But the beautiful thing is, that we humans have evolved to the point that if some group embraces some moral standard, that is, some standard of values, we can eliminate those others that disagree.

Okay. So, to me, what is intrinsically valuable, is that each individual person should be autonomous over themselves. As such, I approve of people choosing to live with different cultural traditions. But I do not approve of cultures that take away our autonony over ourselves.

Now, to my mind, the morality of the individual, is the set of things for/against which the invidiual will exert themselves. I will exert myself so that each person may be autonomous, and so that nobody will be dominiated from without! That means, however, that I will oppose certain ‘other cultures,’ and also that I will oppose my own culture, the culture of the U.S.

In general, my moral values are not ‘tolerant’ of cultures. That is to say, I tolerate humans making choices for themselves, but I do not tolerate cultures that inflict or impose upon individuals their choices over themselves. That means, I do not tolerate a culture that wants to dominate the world in the sense of dominating every individual (even if that culture is one I happen to enjoy; I do enjoy many aspects of Irish-American culture, even when that does not approve, e.g., abortion). Nor do I tolerate a culture that attempts to dominate a given gender. Or a given profession. Or a given race.

From where, however, do morals come? Well, in the end, if you choose not to agree with our morals… be excluded. That is, apart from the punishment, all any moral code can give you. For morality is a system of values. But all values are either intrinsic or else relative to an already accepted value – so intrinsic values must be agreed upon ‘arbitrarily.’

However, what is most important is, that I do not care about most of the things in which different cultures differ. I do not care, for instance, if a film decides to break into song partway through (as Indian films tend to do). The basic thing about which I care is about individual freedom: is everyone free to live their lives free from bullying?

More anti-white racism

On Etsy, no less! A ‘white tears mug’ t-shirt.

Seriously, how will we have an egalitarian, colour-blind society when the right-wing is engaged in anti-‘non-white’ racism, while the left wing is engaged in anti-white racism? Perhaps we could just be people who deal with other people as people? That would work, but I doubt the right or left wing could handle it.

As an actual egalitarian, it can feel quite lonely at times.

‘Not all…’

When it comes to generalizations of the form ‘X do Y,’ it’s perfectly reasonably to respond with ‘Not all X do Y.’ And I think most people know this. Now, in some cases this may not be the appropriate response, in the sense that it might still be true that most X do Y (e.g. most members of the KKK are anti-Semitic, even if there’s a handful that aren’t). But in many cases people seem to object to the ‘not all X do Y’ statement, even when there’s a sizable subset of X that do not, in fact, do Y.

The problem is that some of the same people who came out after the Paris attacks with their ‘not all muslims’ defence, will become angered if a male says ‘not all men’ in response to some misandrist remark that purports . So let’s give a brief recount of some things that are not true of all members of a group, starting with those I think most leftists would agree with, moving down to some that may annoy the regressives among them.

  1. Not all muslims are terrorists.
  2. Not all muslims support sharia law.
  3. Not all African Americans are criminals.
  4. Not all males are misogynists or rapists.
  5. Not all whites are racists. For that matter, not all cops are racist, either. In fact some cops are reverse racist: they are extra careful around non-whites to avoid any possibility of seeming racist.

Even in some cases where most of a group may hold to a particular viewpoint, the ‘not all’ caveat is still often useful. For example, ‘Not all Americans supported the Iraq war at its opening.’ Of course, as the war progressed, support dropped drastically, but at the beginning it enjoyed majority support, to the best of my knowledge.

The particular problem, of course, is that by making generalizations and then refusing to admit that they don’t apply to all members of a group, a person comes off being just as bigoted as those they are usually targeting. This is a particular problem among regressive leftists of all flavours.

As a suggestion, it is usually better, or more accurate, to talk about official positions of groups rather than what individuals within those groups believe. For instance, not all republicans are anti-choice. However, the GOP official position is anti-choice. So, ‘Republicans are anti-choice’ is true as a statement about an official position of the part, but not as a statement about all people who identify as members of that party.

There’s nothing wrong with using language in a manner that is convenient. And often, statements like ‘X do Y’ are simply used for convenience. But the response ‘In fact not all X do Y’ is a perfectly valid one and in some cases, is one that really needs to be underlined.

Does god need to stay hidden?

When atheists ask theists why their god doesn’t provide actual proof of his existence, the latter usually respond with something like the following:

‘Well, if an all-powerful god were to prove their existence to someone, then that person would obey out of sheer fear, whether they really want to do so or not. God doesn’t want that and instead wants people to make their own decisions on whether to follow him.’

The major problem here is, that isn’t what people are deciding!

The FIRST thing that people decide, is whether they believe god exists. But that has nothing to do with what sort of ethical system they admire, or what kind of person they want to be. It’s a question of ‘Is there an X?’ In other words, it’s like the question ‘Do you believe extraterrestrials have visited earth?’ People can answer it with ‘No,’ ‘Yes,’ or ‘maybe.’

The SECOND thing is, if people think god might exist, they need to decide if they want to follow him. According to the theist explanation, they’re supposed to feel like they aren’t being coerced. But if they really think god exists, then they will feel just as coerced into following him, as they would feel if he gave proof of his existence! In either case, they 100% believe he exists, and will feel the same amount of coercion in either case! (Which does not, incidentally, mean they will feel coerced to follow god. I would not follow the god of christianity or islam, because I would rather go to hell myself than kiss the arse of the god that sends people there).

At this point, the theist could back up and say ‘Well, the way the lack of coercion works is that if they don’t want to follow god, they can lie to themselves about the evidence. So in that way, it gives them choice without coercion. If he proved his existence they would follow him just to get out of going to hell [not true as I noted above], but this way, they can decide they don’t want god to be real and then deceive themselves.’ But I’m not sure that ‘letting’ people subconsciously or consciously deceive themselves should really qualify as ‘choice without coercion.’ Nonetheless, we will let that point pass. It’s a much more complicated defense of god staying hidden, but it’s… not entirely incoherent.

The THIRD thing people need to decide is just what god is like and what he wants. And this is incredibly problematic! Suppose a person is convinced that christianity is correct. But which kind? You’re taking rather a crap shoot in any way you go. If you go Orthodox, the Catholics and many Protestants will say you still go to hell. If you go Catholic, then the Orthodox and many Protestants will say you still go to hell. If you go with some form of Protestant (or baptist, Assyrian, and so on), the Orthodox and Catholics say you go to hell – and lots of other Protestants will say the same! And that is assuming you can jump from evidence that a god exists to the conclusion that some form of christianity is true! In fact, just because you conclude a god exists, does not eliminate judaism or islam or even a polytheistic religion – including perhaps some deity which no human in history has ever grasped!

This third point is, I think, the weakest one for the theist argument in defense of god staying hidden. The first two points can sort of be made to work in a muddled way, by suggesting that the ‘lack of coercion’ comes from being able to deceive yourself. Which is still really, really strange, but can perhaps be accepted. The third point, however, is what really gets things complicated. Just because you accept there is a god and that you want to follow him does not mean you can figure out who that god is or what they want!

In other words, if god exists and wants us to be able to find out the facts about himself by using our rational faculties, he’s done a piss-poor job of it! And if he doesn’t want our faculties to be useful for finding out the truth, then he is basically the deceptive Cartesian demon – in which case, we really have no grounds for thinking ANYTHING is true, at all!