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Campus Voices Against Coercion

Call me a Marxist if you will, but it is perfectly clear that the Social Justice Warrior movement for “safe spaces” and suchlike is a naked grab for power and domination, using modes of discourse that work within those communities, and to which wibbly-wobbly campus administrators, teachers, and diversocrats are especially susceptible. Liberalism in this case is nothing but a pseudo-benign mask over will to power.

Rachel Huebner, a Harvard undergraduate, writes about the situation on her campus: [1]

The rise of safe spaces has also deeply encroached upon open dialogue and free expression. It is ironic that while the origins [2] of the term safe space can be found in the 20th century women’s movement, where it “implies a certain license to speak and act freely,” today the term has come to be associated with precisely the opposite: the inability to speak freely. Journalists have been silenced [3] in the name of safe spaces and debates have been barred [4]. Books have been banned and conversation topics prohibited.

In a class I attended earlier this semester, a large portion of the first meeting was devoted to compiling a list of rules for class discussion. A student contended that as a woman, she would be unable to sit across from a student who declared that he was strongly against abortion, and the other students in the seminar vigorously defended this declaration. The professor remained silent. In a recent conversation with peers, I posed a question about a verse from the Bible. A Harvard employee in the room immediately interjected, informing me that we were in a safe space and I was thus not permitted to discuss the controversial biblical passage. And these are just stories from the past three months.

The assaults on free expression have dire consequences. The rise of the microagression movement has been reported [5] to be detrimental to mental health on campus. Students’ emotional distress is increasing as educators presume that fragile undergraduates need to be protected from any form of dissent. Administrators must recognize that the current restrictions are incompatible with the very premise and goal of an education.

It is time to stop focusing on feelings as the criteria for speech and actions on the college campus.

Here’s an e-mail I received over the weekend from Amelia Sims, head of the College Republicans at Emory University, and a Catholic. I share it with her permission:

First, I just wanted to say I love reading your blog, and I can’t wait for your Benedict Option book. Recent events on campus have really made manifest to me how needed it is right now. Campus environments have become suffocating crucibles for Christian kids, and most of them come into college without the resources or basic arguments to defend their beliefs. I’m a senior at Emory, and it’s been quite a circus these past few days with all the media coverage on the chalkings and such. I wrote an op ed in the Washington Post about it, [6] but I also wanted to share a little more info with you.

At this point, it’s all pretty embarrassing for the school, and most people just want all of it to blow over as fast as possible. Emory is a pretty liberal school, but most people here, even the more radical liberal students and professors, agree the protesters response was radical and overblown. The protesters really are a small, loud minority. On campus, everyone kind of knew the chalkings were a joke, and most people didn’t take them seriously. The protesters demands were silly and I loathe the histrionic excess of this kind of mob mentality, however, it’s also been kind of sad to see the media exploit them.

The people quoted in the article told reporters they wished to remain anonymous and yet the reporters disclosed their identity. They’ve now received numerous death threats and floods of person attacks on social media and in their emails, as have the president and Vice President of SGA. I’ve seen them, and they are truly horrifying. These more radical groups have received more fodder from this overblown media reaction than from anything else in years.

This is also true for Trump followers. Though Trump supporters may as well be alien invaders on this campus, there are a few of them. I’ve met five people, just over the past few days, who have decided to support Trump in reaction to the radical nature of the protests. Most people on campus, however, have never met a Trump supporter and can’t conceive that anyone would vote for Trump, but for some feelings of bigotry, xenophobia, or white supremacism. They speak of his followers as if they are a breed of people that need to be exterminated. It’s sick. They know so little of real immigration policy that they see any demand for increased border security as a personal attack, and they fail to acknowledge that both Sanders and Cruz are pretty staunch defenders of border security too. (not to mention the secure fence act Clinton and Obama signed in 2006)

A lot of “talking” has resulted from all this upheaval, but it’s also worth noting how little back and forth there has really been. There are a lot of emotions on both sides and no trust or dialogue or argument. Instead of discussion or argument, groups have issued blanket statements which students identifying/sympathizing with them have monolithically posted on Facebook. This kind of parroting, on both sides, makes any kind of discussion about free speech, Trump, or border security/immigration impossible. Feelings are used to end discussions, not further them, and people have insulated themselves so well they have a really hard time conceiving of suffering outside of their own interest group. There has definitely been a mounting tension on campus since the Ferguson riots last year, but now more than ever, I feel like I’m witnessing a lot of what you have been discussing in your blog for the past year. I really shouldn’t be surprised at all, but It’s like it’s all unfolding as a Euripidean tragedy and it’s just really depressing to watch. Kyrie eleison

Read Amelia’s op-ed. [6]

One of two things is going to happen:

1. Students sick and tired of being mau-mau’d and having their speech stifled and educations ruined are going to organize and start pushing back, hard, and campuses will be turned into a battleground, or

2. Students will go gently into that good progressive night, and surrender without protest because they just want to conform and get a good job.

I think No. 2 is far worse than No. 1, but No. 1 means trouble ahead. Conservatives — especially religious conservatives — should understand that the SJW mentality is not going to be limited only to campus, but is taking hold in the business world too. You can fight it now, or you can fight it later, but you are definitely going to have to fight it … unless you choose to conform.

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92 Comments (Open | Close)

92 Comments To "Campus Voices Against Coercion"

#1 Comment By Rob G On March 29, 2016 @ 6:43 pm

“What’s so funny is that you really believe that.”

Yeah, there’s no vaccine against the Whig View of History, alas.

#2 Comment By Jeremy Taylor On March 29, 2016 @ 7:54 pm

Eamus Catuli,

Do you have any evidence for your conjecture about the leftward turn of academics?

It seems an absurd and unwarranted piece of speculation to me. It at least is in serious need of some specifics about academics now and in the past to support it.

Franklin Evans,

Are you aware of the material fallacy of guilt by association?

[NFR: From Jonathan Haidt’s interview with Tyler Cowen:

HAIDT: No, it’s not — there are two universities now, but it’s not which ones matter more and which ones matter less. It’s what is the sacred value. The sacred value of universities from sometime in the 19th century through maybe the 1980s was truth. Now it was not perfect, but we all talked that way. Look at the mottos of Harvard and Yale — Veritas, Lux et Veritas, it’s right there on the motto, veritas, truth.

We made a big show — it was largely true — of saying this is what we’re here for, we’re here to find truth. But in the 1970s and ’80s as we had a big influx of baby boomers who were involved in social protest, who were fighting for very good causes, civil rights, women’s rights — they flood into the academy in ’70s and ’80s, they get tenure in the ’80s and ’90s, but also in the 1990s, the Greatest Generation begins to retire. There were a lot of Republicans who became professors after World War II.

But the ’90s is the decade where everything flips. At the start of the 1990s, the overall left‑right ratio of the academy, taking all departments, was two to one, just twice as many people on the left as right. That’s fine, that’s not a problem. But by 2005, it had gone to five to one, five people on the left for every one on the right. Those people on the right are mostly engineering, nursing, things like that. If you look at the core — the humanities and the social sciences, other than economics, it’s closer to 10 to 1 or 20 to 1.
In other words, right‑wing, or libertarian, or social conservative voices have basically vanished between 1995 and 2005. This has made us unfunctional, but it’s in the social sciences and humanities where the sacred value has become social justice and the protection of victims. That’s the division. One university of the sciences still pursues truth, the other university in the social sciences and humanities pursues social justice.

— RD]

#3 Comment By Franklin Evans On March 29, 2016 @ 9:28 pm

Jeremy Taylor: Are you aware of the utter waste of time a hanging statement generates? If you wish to offer a rebuttal to anything I say, kindly do so in a direct fashion.

Taking your question as a tangent: I’ve experienced that fallacy with my own flesh. Further, I’ve met people who were verbally lynched as a result of the satanic cult scares of the 80s and 90s, some of whom sought police protection as a result.

I know all about the assignment of guilt by association.

#4 Comment By Jeremy Taylor On March 29, 2016 @ 10:09 pm

Sorry, I was referring to Eamus”s speculations on the reasons for the left turn. I don’t question that turn.

Franklin Evans,

You quite clearly jump from the actions of a some Christians and conservatives to tarring all. I mean I can’t imagine much more of a time wasting argument as to suggest we consider all Christians more or less responsible for disrupting this pagan parade of yours (which seems the implication if such events are meant to reflect on how we views conservative Christians religious liberty in general).

#5 Comment By Franklin Evans On March 29, 2016 @ 10:50 pm

Jeremy, I quite clearly offer anecdotal descriptions. I use the word in my post. If that’s not enough to be clear to you that I make no jump, you can also read in my post that I would not tolerate such things from anyone, including fellow Pagans.

If you really wish to continue to make your false assumptions about what I write, by all means waste your time commenting on them. In the meantime, your one-liner as a possible response to a substantial post is precisely what I referred to as a waste of time. Maybe you haven’t read Rod’s blog much, so you wouldn’t know that I regularly engage in detailed discussions with people with whom I disagree, sometimes violently so. The vast majority of the time the discussions are civil.

So, here’s my assumption. Show me how it’s false: people who think one-liners are at all constructive are generally being passive-aggressive because they don’t really comprehend the topic. Your turn.

#6 Comment By BadReligion On March 29, 2016 @ 10:56 pm

[NFR: What’s so funny is that you really believe that. It is hard to derive an “ought” from an “is”. I am grateful for those who fought child labor and slavery, but they did so not because of “facts,” but because of their moral convictions — some religious (e.g., Wilberforce), others not. — RD]

That’s actually not what I meant, but I’m glad you mentioned it. I was referring to the facts of history (just for example) leading to the conclusion that advocating for liberation of subaltern groups is the correct position, since it seems uncontroversial in retrospect. A lack of gratefulness for women’s liberation (in your comment) is also conspicuous by its absence. Of course it’s not always that simple to foresee, but that’s why it helps to learn history, to see the relevant precedents.

I think this is what you call the “right side of history” fallacy, but it seems to me that it’s just a manifestation of the “take my ball and go home” fallacy on your part.

You claim that facts should not guide moral convictions, and I actually claim just the opposite, now that I think about it. If the facts are that some countries pursue policies of action on matters of drugs and sexuality (Portugal, Netherlands, Switzerland) that lead to very low rates of social ills assorted with that sort of thing, without the externalities of a Singaporean or Saudi approach, we should emulate them, right?

I try to make sure that my moral convictions stem from facts. I was a history buff from childhood on, and reading about the *fact* of thousands of years of many millions of people going to war based on what kings and queens and clergy and capitalists told them, rather than their actual interests, was enough to make me harshly question any and all hierarchies of power and privilege.

So yeah, what is dictates what ought to be.

[NFR: “Any and all hierarchies of power and privilege”? Except the one that leaves you in charge. There is no such thing as neutrality. You and your Whig-Marxist theory of history. — RD]

#7 Comment By BadReligion On March 29, 2016 @ 11:34 pm

Rather, the lack is conspicuous by its presence. I forgot to edit.

#8 Comment By Jeremy Taylor On March 30, 2016 @ 2:00 am

Franklin,

Sometimes one line is enough. Do gross fallacies deserve much more than calling them out?

Your post consisted of suggesting you have seen some Christians doing likewise and don’t have much sympathy for allC Christians based on this. You confirmed this in a subsequent post. This is both guilt by association and a tu quoque fallacy. It is also just the sort of unhelpful response not needed in these situations. Take responsibility for your own posting of silly points and don’t blame those who call you out.

#9 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On March 30, 2016 @ 5:23 am

Eamus Catuli

Modern academics […] (are) supposed to have evidence they can point to that is shareable among all observers.

Are you sure you are talking about actual humanities, or about the way you wish they were?

I don’t know enough about the academic history of US Universities but the basic reason why intellectuals are predominantly on the Left in European Universities is basically because there they have made their own church and Marx is their bearded prophet.

#10 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On March 30, 2016 @ 5:35 am

Eamus Catuli

Modern academics […] (are) supposed to have evidence they can point to that is shareable among all observers.

Are you sure you are talking about actual humanities, or about the way you wish they were?

#11 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On March 30, 2016 @ 6:06 am

Sorry for the quasi-duplicated comment

#12 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On March 30, 2016 @ 6:11 am

BadReligion

For the Left, the only facts that count are those which fit the narrative. As an example, you leave out of the luminous march for Progress led by the Left the innumerable amount of corpses – about a hundred million – which have been trampled over along the trail.

#13 Comment By Rob G On March 30, 2016 @ 7:59 am

“Facts” and “intelligence” also undoubtedly explain the preponderance of Leftists among Hollywood celebrities and rock stars.

#14 Comment By John Spragge On March 30, 2016 @ 8:40 am

[NFR: What’s so funny is that you really believe that. It is hard to derive an “ought” from an “is”. I am grateful for those who fought child labor and slavery, but they did so not because of “facts,” but because of their moral convictions — some religious (e.g., Wilberforce), others not. — RD]

How exactly does anyone act in a coherent way without reference to facts? William Wilberforce acted out of a deep personal compassion motivated by his religious faith. The facts, the reality he encountered always guided his actions. He expressed his compassion to slaves with uncompromising opposition to slavery in each and every one of its forms. He expressed the deep compassion for animal suffering by a vigorous reform approach: helping sponsor bans on extravagantly cruel animal “sports” and helping to found the SPCA. He acted according to the facts as he understood them: that human beings from all corners of the world have the same ability to make and articulate moral choice, and non-human animals simply do not have the same capacity. Some of the extremes of the animal rights movement reject this perspective. They claim we should act according to the assumption that humans and other animals have the same or a similar capacity for moral agency.

Confronted with this perspective, some people reject the view of facts the animal rights advocates have: they view animals as lacking the capacity for moral agency. Others may reject the moral appeal, and use animals as they choose because they have the power to do so. In any case, each person’s choices will depend on their view of the fats as well as their moral outlook.

[NFR: Nonsense. These sweet innocent “sophomores” drove out the president of the University of Missouri system, humiliated Nicholas Christakis, and drove his wife to resign. And nobody will say no to them, ever. — RD]

Here we have a perfect example of the reason the facts matter. Consider the case of the president of the University of Missouri. During a wrenching social crisis driven by systemic oppression in his state, the president in question could not respond to a challenge to define the concept of systemic oppression. I believe, as a matter of both fact and morality, that persons charged with running a university system should at least understand the words for the challenges faced by the students they lead. An administrator who can’t respond to that challenge should not have charge of a major public university system, for the same reason that the heads of universities in France and Belgium have an obligation to at least define and articulate a response to fears of terrorism their students may feel.

Now, you may disagree with me about these facts. You may also disagree about the moral framework. Maybe a university president has no leadership role at all, and has only to ensure the accounts balance, the payroll gets met, and the grounds get raked. Maybe students have no right to expect or demand competent leadership. But no coherent discussion of this issue can take place without reckoning with the facts element: what problems the University of Missouri system and its students actually faced. Otherwise, we have no way to evaluate the actual performance of university administrators.

#15 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On March 30, 2016 @ 9:06 am

Just for clarification re my comment of March 30, 2016 at 6:11 am: about the Left: I’m not conflating Pol Pot with Dorothy Day.
But BadReligion ideological reading of history is willingly avoiding complexities, e.g., the fact that many of the industrialists availing themselves of child labour where proud advocates of “Progress”.
Many of them also abode to very liberal “values” in their own bourgeois context, with respect to women liberation, sex, and so on so forth…
Of course, they also very conveniently subscribed to political Darwinist ideas about the anthropological inferiority of working classes and why they had to be paternalistically taken care of and, at the same time, be kept under control.

#16 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On March 30, 2016 @ 9:13 am

John Spragge

the heads of universities in France and Belgium have an obligation to at least define and articulate a response to fears of terrorism their students may feel.

Universities in Continental Europe are a pretty different business, mainly because of the fact that – generally speaking – there isn’t a campus life. No headmaster, principal or rector in France or Belgium feels an obligation, or is expected, to issue political statements.

#17 Comment By Franklin Evans On March 30, 2016 @ 10:02 am

Ah, Jeremy, I see. Definitely passive-aggressive lack of comprehension.

There is a serious point to be made about guilt by association. I’ve made it in other threads, echoed by others: It doesn’t matter that it’s a fallacy — and it is — because the formerly oppressed, be they so by actual evidence or from their own (yes, flawed) perspective, are now coming to power. Do you really think hitting them with one-liners about fallacies is going to make a bit of difference as they do unto Christians as they believe Christians have done unto them?

The revenge factor is a fact of American political life. Knowing that, factoring that into my early criticisms of Rod’s Benedict Option, has shifted my perspective towards agreement with his motivations, and a personal sympathy for his (and others) paranoia over what is coming next. I don’t agree that it will be as bad as he expects. I do believe that it could be bad enough. The moral stance is to abandon any sense of support for the newly-arriving powerful, no matter how closely I agree with them politically or socially, and stand up to them where some, like Rod, might feel it dangerous to do so themselves.

Alan, like some others, doesn’t seem to get that. Maybe I was harsh with him — and in the meantime, I really don’t care about your opinion of my post, it’s his reaction I seek — and maybe that will end up being a detriment to the points I seek to make. So be it.

#18 Comment By Franklin Evans On March 30, 2016 @ 10:32 am

Rod, BadReligion has a point, which he(?) is struggling to make clear to you. Allow me to try my personal take on it, with you, BR, standing ready to correct me as needed, I hope.

Nations always go to war for practical reasons. Young men (and now women) need high ideals to convince them to risk and give up their lives for those nations.

I’m paraphrasing something I read in a Robert A. Heinlein essay, which I still have difficulty finding to provide a clear citation and context. Be that as it may, he points out two things with that assertion:

First, seek out the practical reasons for war. Address them, alleviate them, mitigate them, or just convert them into something else. That is a barely-adequate rendering of international diplomacy. Nothing short of that (or some combination of them) is capable of preventing a given war.

Second: Propaganda is the primary tool of statecraft, because it is best capable of instilling those high ideals into those young people and succeeding in turning them into proxies/cannon-fodder for the national interests.

I submit that the first is tantamount to an axiom concerning facts. Invading a country to protect oil interests (Gulf War I), or to just respond in kind — a true act of national defense — to an act of war on our soil (Afghanistan) are the factual practical reason examples. I’m sure there are many others.

I assert that the second is where we all get trapped. Concerned and informed citizens, amateur and credentialed historians alike, we all have compassion (well, with a few rare but notable exceptions, ahem) and we are all vulnerable to propaganda. Paraphrasing a flaming Randian objectivist, we will believe a lie because we’re afraid it might be true (G.W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq) or because we want it to be true… something that Donald Trump clearly understands and is applying masterfully.

I’m on a roll, so one more citation of an author of fiction, this time Frank Herbert: Power corrupts, not of its nature, but because power attracts the corruptible. I’ve been mulling that one over for several decades, and all along I’ve found it just plain sanity to always distrust the members of any and all hierarchies of power and privilege. They must earn my trust, and continue to maintain it over time. In our society, power and privilege have always trumped the American republican ideals, right on back to the very first presidential term of office.

#19 Comment By BadReligion On March 30, 2016 @ 1:12 pm

[NFR: “Any and all hierarchies of power and privilege”? Except the one that leaves you in charge. There is no such thing as neutrality. You and your Whig-Marxist theory of history. — RD]

No, *especially* the one that might leave me in charge. Repressive hierarchies damage people on both ends. Decentralization of power and privilege is pretty much the prime directive for me. That applies on the macroeconomic and political scale, but also on the small interpersonal scale. Power relationships should never be taken on faith, or because of tradition. There are many cases where the facts might support such relationships (parents and children), but when it’s arbitrary, capricious, ignorant, counterproductive, abusive, etc. (see parents and children!), the results are dreadful.

I’m not sure what “neutrality” has to do with this.

“I’m not conflating Pol Pot with Dorothy Day.”

In all seriousness, thanks for clarifying that.

“But BadReligion ideological reading of history is willingly avoiding complexities, e.g., the fact that many of the industrialists availing themselves of child labour where proud advocates of “Progress”.
Many of them also abode to very liberal “values” in their own bourgeois context, with respect to women liberation, sex, and so on so forth…
Of course, they also very conveniently subscribed to political Darwinist ideas about the anthropological inferiority of working classes and why they had to be paternalistically taken care of and, at the same time, be kept under control.”

Yes, that’s why liberals (or people who are liberal in some or many respects) are not necessarily comprehensively progressive, and definitely should not be conflated with bona-fide Leftists.

John Spragge, yes, that’s one way to elaborate it.

Franklin Evans, yes, I am male, and I suppose your/Heinlein’s analysis does further explain my point, though maybe you’re making it too complicated.

“Power corrupts, not of its nature, but because power attracts the corruptible. I’ve been mulling that one over for several decades, and all along I’ve found it just plain sanity to always distrust the members of any and all hierarchies of power and privilege. They must earn my trust, and continue to maintain it over time. In our society, power and privilege have always trumped the American republican ideals, right on back to the very first presidential term of office.”

That pretty much nails it; thanks.

‘“Facts” and “intelligence” also undoubtedly explain the preponderance of Leftists among Hollywood celebrities and rock stars.’

You say that like it’s a bad thing. I don’t know about the former, but regarding musicians… we’ve seen a lot of political debates lately, so how about pitting Kathleen Hanna or Tom Morello against Ted Nugent or Kid Rock or somebody like that.

#20 Comment By Perichoresis On March 30, 2016 @ 1:16 pm

@BadReligion: “You claim that facts should not guide moral convictions, and I actually claim just the opposite, now that I think about it.”

Facts are the circumstances moral convictions are applied to, but they do not dictate the moral convictions. As Rod said, you cannot derive an “ought” from an “is.” An “ought” comes from the realm of objective moral values and duties that we apprehend noninferentially. This only makes sense if God exists as the ground for those objective values and duties. We experience moral imperatives that issue from his morally perfect nature as the divine authority. In the absence of God, there is no objective basis for regarding Hitler as more morally repugnant than Mother Teresa. That would just be a subjective judgment.

#21 Comment By John Spragge On March 30, 2016 @ 1:21 pm

Giuseppe Scalas:

Universities in Continental Europe are a pretty different business, mainly because of the fact that – generally speaking – there isn’t a campus life. No headmaster, principal or rector in France or Belgium feels an obligation, or is expected, to issue political statements.

Thank you for clarifying that.

Just to make what I tried to say a bit clearer: the former president of the State University of Missouri system failed to engage with events on campus and, according to the published reports I have read, when asked by students, he did not understand the structural oppression they faced in their daily lives, he said that he didn’t have a good answer, and he made no particular commitment to learn. Since I know little about the duties of university administrators in Europe, I will amend my argument to this: administrators of American universities with study abroad programs have an obligation to understand and respond to the effects of terror attacks on the students they have [7].

#22 Comment By Franklin Evans On March 30, 2016 @ 1:43 pm

BadReligion: thanks for your response. I do tend to over-complicate things. I beg forgiveness for and claim expertise in the mode of thinking called free association. I’m attracted to Heinlein first for his rollicking good storytelling, but second and with continuing fascination for his ability to take simple concepts and stretch them in directions not previously deemed possible. His best-known work is Stranger in a Strange Land; his deepest thinking can be found in Starship Troopers. Both challenge the reader to rip off veneers and examine the guts of ideas. “Stranger” is too distracting, in my opinion, in several ways (well, mostly nudity and sex).

Heinlein draws a thick, hard line in the sand with Starship Troopers. Purge the movie from your mind, if you saw it, and read that book as a treatise and commentary on a democratic republic, and why hierarchies of power are both necessary and an active danger. “There’s gold in them thar hills, pardner.” 😀

#23 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 30, 2016 @ 1:44 pm

many of the industrialists availing themselves of child labour where proud advocates of “Progress”.
Many of them also abode to very liberal “values” in their own bourgeois context, with respect to women liberation, sex, and so on so forth…

That is why the words “liberal” and “bourgeois” are inextricably linked, and why there are “whig liberals” but no such thing as a “whig marxist.”

Consider the case of the president of the University of Missouri. During a wrenching social crisis driven by systemic oppression in his state

It is an open question, one that can be credibly debated, whether there is or was a “wrenching social crisis” or whether such crisis was “driven by systemic oppression.” I have lived and worked around enough people of African descent to believe that there could have been some significant friction between the norms of the university and the norms that students of African descent lived by, that needed some alleviation or resolution. I rather doubt that these were coherently expressed by the initial protests, understood by those who rallied, or amounted to either “wrenching social crisis” or “systemic oppression.” I think it was more akin to the iconic tale of a British man and an Italian man trying to hold a face to face conversation. (Italians, supposedly, find six inches a normal face to face distance, while the British allegedly prefer 18 inches.)

they have made their own church and Marx is their bearded prophet.

You demean the sanctity of your own faith by offering such a spurious analogy.

#24 Comment By Franklin Evans On March 30, 2016 @ 2:16 pm

Siarlys, the story I heard about personal space was from an American journalist. He was standing on a mezzanine overlooking a diplomatic soiree, and noticed an intense conversation between an American and a Frenchman. As he watched, their position inexorably traversed the floor, starting with the Frenchman with his back to a wall and ending with the American, his back to the opposite wall, becoming increasingly agitated.

It was all, the journalist opined, about personal space. The Frenchman kept moving forward to his unconscious point of proximity, which kept invading the American’s space beyond his unconscious point of comfort. According to the account, neither man was aware of the movement.

#25 Comment By BadReligion On March 30, 2016 @ 2:35 pm

“Facts are the circumstances moral convictions are applied to, but they do not dictate the moral convictions.”

Sure they do! Not always, but very frequently. Read the posts to that effect on this very page.

‘An “ought” comes from the realm of objective moral values and duties that we apprehend noninferentially. This only makes sense if God exists as the ground for those objective values and duties. We experience moral imperatives that issue from his morally perfect nature as the divine authority. In the absence of God, there is no objective basis for regarding Hitler as more morally repugnant than Mother Teresa. That would just be a subjective judgment.’

Not this again. Are you serious? 1. Does this reflect the world around you, or seem to reflect the world at large?; 2. Do empirical facts back that up (religiosity versus corruption and violence, contrast Sweden and Jamaica)?; 3. Do you only behave yourself because you are afraid of being punished by a deity, observed from the heavens, or whatever?

#26 Comment By John Spragge On March 30, 2016 @ 2:46 pm

When I wrote of a wrenching social crisis, I meant [8].

#27 Comment By Perichoresis On March 30, 2016 @ 3:28 pm

@BadReligion: “Sure they do!”

Nonresponsive.

“Not this again. Are you serious? 1. Does this reflect the world around you, or seem to reflect the world at large?”

Yes, objective values and duties are properly basic, known directly and noninferentially. The holocaust, for example, is obviously objectively immoral even if every person on earth thought otherwise.

“2. Do empirical facts back that up (religiosity versus corruption and violence, contrast Sweden and Jamaica)?”

Irrelevant. The values and duties remain objectively binding whether people embrace them or not, and regardless of their cultural situation.

“3.Do you only behave yourself because you are afraid of being punished by a deity, observed from the heavens, or whatever?”

No, we ought to obey objective duties because they issue from that being greater than which none can be conceived, regardless of the consequences.

#28 Comment By Rob G On March 30, 2016 @ 3:59 pm

“You say that like it’s a bad thing. I don’t know about the former, but regarding musicians… we’ve seen a lot of political debates lately, so how about pitting Kathleen Hanna or Tom Morello against Ted Nugent or Kid Rock or somebody like that.”

LOL. Nice dodge, but still a dodge. Do you really believe that the majority of entertainment Lefties are that way because they reasoned themselves there? If so, I’ve got this nice piece of property in Pomona…

#29 Comment By Eamus Catuli On March 30, 2016 @ 4:00 pm

@Jeremy Taylor and @Guiseppe Scalas:

First, as I have often said on these threads, there is plenty of arrant nonsense on the loose in humanities departments these days. I find it as dismaying as anyone. And of course, it rests on various intellectual and other errors: groupthink, the urge to be trendy, cult-like admiration for certain ideas and thinkers, competitive pressures, virtue-signaling, preciosity, obscurantism, etc.

But even the worst Judith Butler acolytes and wannabes do not (a) appeal to the supernatural; (b) claim to derive their ideas from private visions; from direct revelations from God, the Blessed Virgin, or space aliens; from inscriptions on buried golden plates, spells recorded on ancient papyrii, or other such occult sources; (c) insist that the final word on things, if only we understand it correctly, is already there in a book compiled many hundreds of years ago; or (d) defer to a class of priests with inherited titles, or to a “Magisterium” whose authority comes from any kind of mechanism resembling “apostolic succession.” All of these are excluded as methods of legitimate argument just as surely in the humanities as they are in the social sciences. Whatever you’re talking about — whatever Judith Butler is talking about (if you can tell through the thicket of awful prose) — it has to be something that we can all look at and consider, and you have to present arguments for the position you’re taking on it, even if you’re Judith Butler or someone else of equivalent high status in the field. You can’t just say, “I know this because God told me,” or “It says so in Scripture,” or “believe me, because I am the Vicar of {insert name of ancient authority here} on Earth.”

In the 19th century, Harvard was basically a seminary for Unitarian ministers, meaning that various appeals to divine authority still did to some extent underwrite the instruction. Weak appeals, perhaps, because they were Unitarians, but the idea was still that it was ultimately all about being true to God. But things changed a lot late in that century, as the German Wissenschaft model of the graduate-level research university was brought to the US. The first of these was Johns Hopkins, but Harvard and others quickly followed, making this model the paradigm for the humanities as institutionalized academic enterprises that we know today. The early professional associations for humanists founded about that time, like the Modern Language Association, were very explicit about their goal of putting humanistic studies on a “scientific” basis, which meant aping, where possible, the methods and institutional procedures of the natural sciences.

Now, there were conservatives of the time who resisted these developments, some of them in the belief that the humanities were not sciences and should not be treated as such, and that this whole approach drained them of moral value, which (as conservatives today still argue) we can really only find — or securely ground — by putting ourselves in touch with the divine. My further point above was that insofar as they lost those arguments, it wouldn’t be surprising if conservatives opted out of the academic humanities for the most part. I wouldn’t claim that this was all that happened, but the developments I’ve described — the Entzauberung or disenchantment of the “Geisteswissenschaften” — certainly would create structural conditions in which other developments tending to push things to the left in humanities departments would find less resistance than otherwise. Anyway, it seems that this is at least part of the picture.

#30 Comment By Eamus Catuli On March 30, 2016 @ 4:02 pm

“All of these are excluded as methods of legitimate argument just as surely in the humanities as they are in the social sciences.” Sorry, I meant to say, just as surely in the humanities as in the natural sciences. Although they’re excluded in the social sciences as well.

#31 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 30, 2016 @ 4:51 pm

John Spragge, if you had been talking about why even though Michael Brown probably did act in a manner that made it justifiable for Officer Wilson to shoot him, nevertheless it is understandable that people in his home town were inclined to vigorously protest against his shooting, because their own common experience with the police was a wrenching social crisis, you would have made perfect sense.

But the protests at the University of Missouri were not over a wrenching social crisis in any way remotely resembling anything of the kind.

#32 Comment By Jeremy Taylor On March 30, 2016 @ 6:17 pm

Franklin Evans,

So two wrongs make a right? The attitude that they did it to us, especially when tge they being talked about is just people like the people we are now dealing with, so we can do it to them, is childish and contempible.

#33 Comment By BadReligion On March 30, 2016 @ 6:48 pm

Perichoresis: I and others already gave examples of how facts inform moral convictions. You shouldn’t require more. You also seem to be arguing about religiosity/faith being necessary for (or at least the source of) morality, when the facts seem to show otherwise. As for the existence of “that being” you mention, the burden of proof is on you.

“LOL. Nice dodge, but still a dodge. Do you really believe that the majority of entertainment Lefties are that way because they reasoned themselves there? If so, I’ve got this nice piece of property in Pomona…”

*Lefties*, yes, and see my examples. As for haute-bourgeois (or wealthier) entertainment *liberals*, maybe not.

#34 Comment By Franklin Evans On March 30, 2016 @ 8:23 pm

Jeremy: can we be on a first name basis? I hold no animosity towards you, despite what the tone of my posts might indicate.

I’m in the choir, and I helped write the sermon. I have very strong opinions about moral behavior, politics and privilege. I come down on what is right, even when it pains me… not to say that I’m so easy to dissuade from my opinions. I can be as stubborn as the next man.

It’s not just childish and contemptible. It hits the level of criminal, and no matter how you spin it or slice it, it has been a fact of societal and political life since I first started thinking and arguing about it about 45 years ago. I’m 60.

They don’t think about the moral equation. They don’t. Mostly, they can’t, because they are as much a part of the oppressor/oppressed cycle as those they move to replace in power. They spent their lives as victims awaiting their chance for pay-back, and ramp it up with the stories told to them by their oppressed parents.

I don’t hesitate to sit in judgment of both parties, just as you’re doing in your last post. Again, and I can’t emphasize this too much, they will take revenge, they will justify it six ways from Sunday, and they’ll still be wrong.

In practical terms, our only choices are speak out against them (and risk being added to their list of targets), or stand ready to help their targets heal and move on.

That’s not even cynical. It’s the acknowledgement of reality.

#35 Comment By Perichoresis On March 31, 2016 @ 12:40 am

@BadReligion: “I and others already gave examples of how facts inform moral convictions.”

If that is all you are claiming, that’s fine. Of course moral convictions are applied to the factual circumstances. But the ought is not derived from the facts. It is applied to the facts.

“You also seem to be arguing about religiosity/faith being necessary for (or at least the source of) morality, when the facts seem to show otherwise.”

No, you are confusing moral epistemology with moral ontology. Even those with no faith apprehend a realm of objective moral values and duties. Those values and duties can only be objective if grounded in God’s nature.

“As for the existence of “that being” you mention, the burden of proof is on you.”

And the existence of objective moral values and duties constitutes evidence of God’s existence. On atheism, values and duties would be subjective. And yet we know they are not. Thus, atheism is false.

#36 Comment By Rob G On March 31, 2016 @ 7:34 am

“*Lefties*, yes, and see my examples. As for haute-bourgeois (or wealthier) entertainment *liberals*, maybe not.”

On the level of social progressivism this is a distinction without a difference.

#37 Comment By Franklin Evans On March 31, 2016 @ 10:54 am

[9] [emphases added FE]:

[responding to BadReligion, in quotes] No, you are confusing moral epistemology with moral ontology. Even those with no faith apprehend a realm of objective moral values and duties. Those values and duties can only be objective if grounded in God’s nature.

“As for the existence of “that being” you mention, the burden of proof is on you.”

And the existence of objective moral values and duties constitutes evidence of God’s existence. On atheism, values and duties would be subjective. And yet we know they are not. Thus, atheism is false.

Neither sarcasm nor ire intended: my head is spinning from this example of circular logic.

I wonder if abstracting this by removing specific labels and claims might help clarify it. I invite Perichoresis to consider and comment on the following.

There can be no objective morality without a moral authority. The authority is not ergo necessarily the “author” of that objective morality. It simply embodies it, conveys its structure, and stands as the standard for any claim to objectivity.

The flaw in the original argument is not just the claim for divine authority. The flaw is in requiring that divine authority be singular and rejecting any other possible definition or description of it. That is the epitome of subjective analysis, settling on such specificity in the face of millennia worth of human experience the precludes any knowledge of that specific definition or description.

#38 Comment By John Spragge On March 31, 2016 @ 11:21 am

I believe the lessons of the protests at [10] Ferguson and the University of Missouri include the [11] of injustice, [12], and trauma. Expecting an ongoing traumatic situation in the largest urban region of any state not to affect the university system of that same state makes little sense. As the LA Times [13]:

The fuse was lit by last year’s protests in Ferguson, Mo., after a white police officer shot an unarmed black 18-year-old. Butler was among the students from the university who made the two-hour drive to the St. Louis suburb to join in.

Butler, an Omaha, Neb., native, said Ferguson was the first time he’d seen black collective action on a mass scale. For a month, he shuttled the 100 miles from campus to Ferguson. “It was monumental in terms of how it influenced me,” Butler said, calling what came next “the post-Ferguson effect.”

#39 Comment By Perichoresis On March 31, 2016 @ 2:36 pm

@Franklin Evans: “Neither sarcasm nor ire intended: my head is spinning from this example of circular logic.”

There is nothing circular about it. Laid out in tradition form, the argument is:

1) If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist
2) Objective moral values and duties exist.
3) Therefore, God exists.

“There can be no objective morality without a moral authority. The authority is not ergo necessarily the “author” of that objective morality. It simply embodies it, conveys its structure, and stands as the standard for any claim to objectivity.”

I think we are saying the same thing there. I would say God’s nature is the good–it is the standard by which we measure right and wrong. God does not issue evil imperatives because that would be contrary to his omnibenevolent nature.

“The flaw in the original argument is not just the claim for divine authority. The flaw is in requiring that divine authority be singular and rejecting any other possible definition or description of it. That is the epitome of subjective analysis, settling on such specificity in the face of millennia worth of human experience the precludes any knowledge of that specific definition or description.”

If the authority is not singular (i.e., multiple gods) then there is no ultimate ontological grounding the objectivity of moral values and duties. An alternative singular source would be Plate’s form of “The Good,” but such a form is not an “authority” issuing us any imperatives. The classical Anselmian “perfect being” definition of God as “that being than which nothing greater can be conceived” (who is omnibenevolent because perfect goodness is a great-making property) captures the requirements of a singular ontological grounding of morality and an authority competent to issue us moral imperatives.

#40 Comment By Franklin Evans On March 31, 2016 @ 3:56 pm

Perichoresis,

I’m grateful for your response.

I’ll leave aside the “circularity” argument, if only because I can’t see us coming to a consensus on it, let alone agreement. In any event, it’s not necessary here.

We are approaching this from a similar starting point. It’s what each of us does along the way that differs greatly.

I believe I need to clarify: by “singular” I meant proprietary. It means, from my POV, a complete rejection of any possible alternative. I take your usage here as the Christian God — if I’m mistaken, please correct me — and my point is that over the world and through the millennia there have been belief systems which produced moral codes which are in essential agreement with Christianity, bearing no other resemblance prior to that comparison.

Perspective and context is important. I don’t mean to juxtapose monotheism with any other form of belief. Further, one really needs to take a look at them — take polytheism as an example — because there is no one god vs. many gods comparison. The classic pantheons — Egypt, Greece, Rome, Norse — form a gestalt, many “pieces” forming one “whole” that is the valid comparison point. The Greek moral code was not one god dictating it, it was comprised of the various gods.

I will hasten to concede that even my assertion is arguable. I don’t mean to impose it on you, but to show how it supports my main point: that there is a flaw in any proprietary claim.

#41 Comment By Perichoresis On March 31, 2016 @ 5:36 pm

@Franklin Evans: “my point is that over the world and through the millennia there have been belief systems which produced moral codes which are in essential agreement with Christianity, bearing no other resemblance prior to that comparison.”

Sure, that does not conflict with what I am saying. Human beings, of all faiths and no faith, pagan and Christian, apprehend a realm of objective moral values duties. There are objective moral values–e.g., “torturing babies for fun is always wrong”–that obtain regardless of time or place. If those values and duties are truly objective, they must be grounded ontologically in a transcendent source with the authority to issue moral imperatives (exactly how we come to know all of those moral imperatives is a separate question of moral epistemology). God is the best explanation of the source of those objective moral values and duties.

#42 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 3, 2016 @ 10:59 am

The “post-Ferguson effect” is fallacious delusion on many levels. Starting with, if this student was unaware of “black collective action” his education is a sorry one indeed, and if he thinks what happened in Ferguson is “mass” he has a limited sense of what a “mass” is. Further, he is unable to make essential distinctions, like, between innocent citizens harassed by a settled government policy, and a pack of thugs taking any opportunity to create cover for themselves, BOTH of which existed in Ferguson. (Going back to the Rodney King protests, after about 24 hours of protests sometimes tending toward indiscriminate violence as the police were distracted, there followed two days of pure and simple looting by people who didn’t give a hoot about Rodney King).

Trying to translate the very real grievances in Ferguson to the context of a university campus involves a great deal of me-tooism and Selma envy. The two contexts are not equivalent, although, once again, there are no doubt some very real tensions and grievances that a more thoughtful and better informed person might have raised in an effective manner, with no less militance.

There is nothing more misleading than “indivisibility” of distinct things.