Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Universalising Doctrines

A small cluster of ideas that I've mentioned in passing in past posts that probably deserves one of its own:

  • In any movement that aims for some universalising notion of the good, it is appropriate to aim to eliminate the bad and secure victory for the good, not to secure existence of the good as a "viable choice". This applies to anything from religious liberty to opensource software; if you just want it as an option, what you have is a personal preference (even if your option takes a certain number of institutions to really be viable).
  • This is not meant to disparage those who do just want their preferences to be viable; it's a definitional line that one might reasonably be on either side of
  • I contend that the multiculturalist flavour of liberalism, or at least large parts of it, actually has few notions of the good, as its notion of diversity requires most other values be reasonably quiet. The person who, for example, pushes back against universal criticism of female circumcision for the sake of respecting the cultures that perform it, even if they strongly oppose it in their own culture, is opposing the universalisation of a value-choice on that topic. As someone opposed to that flavour of reasoning (despite my metropolitan identity, I believe in universalising values), this idea of "mind your own business" is a call to neglect one's duty to one's values, or perhaps to adopt a kind of practical nihilism.

From this, I also strongly oppose the efforts of libertarians who dream of floating nations, or nations in space, to escape conventional morality; it is not enough to eliminate slavery, institutional racism/sexism, and the threats to labour where we are, we should seek to eliminate them everywhere and to prevent new bubbles of humanity from emerging that recreate past evils.

As implied by my metaphilosophy of values, I don't think that all value conclusions must/should be universal, nor that we should defend them all with the same tools or vigour. Whether and to what extent our value-conclusions are universal is something we should keep in mind when we're reflecting on our values.

Tags: philosophy

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