Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Upside-down Lens

I realise that this probably won't (or shouldn't) change many of your minds, because the merit of a political-philosophical argument probably should not just be the raw strength of the claims it lets you make for the things you want to believe (DIAF Sam Harris), although perhaps it might have some weight (a la John Rawls' notion of reflective equilibrium)...

Some of you are really bothered by my notion of the importance of normativity in criticism of statements, humour, and the like. I find it really rude to try to shape people's speech to avoid touching uncomfortable topics, etc etc, unless said speech is either normative towards something nasty or an expression of introspection-reachable sexism/racism/etcetc. If people "call out" others who are not racist for racism (for example), I will call *them* out for misusing the term, being controlling of common discourse, and for impinging on the innocent; I see normativity and intent as the gold standard for acceptability there. This is a contentious topic; some people believe in political correctness, some don't believe *any* speech is inappropriate, and some use some metric (like mine or not) to decide when criticism is appropriate. If you disagree with me, I won't be bothered much.

However, you might find it interesting, if you're looking for an application of the criterion of normativity, to how it lets us approach affirmative action; some opponents of affirmative action call it "reverse-racism", and others have pointed out that if it is that, it's simply a different kind of racism. The response to this claim is tricky for a lot of people like me who think that some form of affirmative action makes sense for a time. It's not that hard from my framework though; it fends off the claim of racism entirely; there is no racist intent/theory behind affirmative action, and therefore it cannot be called racism in any way (It is racial discrimination, of course, but affirmative action does not claim any involved race to be superiour or inferiour so that's about as far as the criticism can go). This doesn't solve the question of "is it prudent as policy?", nor does it eliminate the unease we might feel with adopting a policy that's against the long-term intuitions of anti-racism (in the long run we don't want to racially discriminate) of course, but it does free us from a lot of the baggage that some people would affiliate with the policy.

Maybe this isn't such an interesting observation if you are my opposite on both issues and for political correctness + against affirmative action...

Those of you who are looking for a more general theme in how I see the world will note that this fits with my strong preference for focusing on institutions and policy to achieve good social ends, and being reluctant to shape personal behaviour more than strictly necessary to deal with racism/sexism/etc. Also, if you're not socialist or at least for a far safer, softer form of capitalism than we have today with lots of safety nets, I am not inclined to take any of your other concerns about social justice seriously; you're focusing on the wrong things. If you solve racism somehow so the amount of wasted potential of minorities is equal to the wasted potential of the locally dominant race, that's fine, but if we're still wasting as much human potential as we are today with our uneven educational system (among other things), maybe you should've been thinking about that too. It's good to be thinking about the more detailed issues of "what is virtue" and "how should we treat each other on an individual level", bu I expect there to be a solid cake of "ideas about reshaping institutions to deal with the much larger systemic injustices" under that topping. That said, I'm wary of disqualifying people in general; keep arguing your positions, but please also look at the bigger picture of how society sucks, and pick up a few other philosophical commitments; the more commitments/interests you have in philosophy, the more likely it is you'll reach a mature, well-rounded, and ideally practical/implementable perspective.

Tags: philosophy

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