Sunday, January 21, 2018

Western Culture: Truth, Wisdom, and Justice

The attached video shows how Fox's Tucker Carlson uses language that white supremacists love.

A part of this video concerns the interest in "preserving our culture". For example, the video shows clips in which Carlson says:

This is a country founded on European culture....Is the western civilization we are talking about superior to the culture that these immigrants are bringing.

I will start with accepting that some cultures are superior to others. A culture that has abolished slavery is superior to a slave culture. A genocidal culture - e.g., a culture that engages in the (near) extermination of a portion of its population (e.g., Native Americans) is inferior to a culture that condemns these practices.

From which it follows that there is good reason to prevent the growth of these types of ideas in America. To allow people into this country who would advocate and advance the practices of slavery or genocide may be legitimately classified as a bad idea - something that ought not to be done.

Here is one of the things that I would argue makes one culture better than another.

A love of and respect for truth. Truth matters. Honesty matters. Determining the facts of the matter and basing one's actions on the best available understanding on the best available evidence matters. In a culture worth protecting, these would be seen as virtues worthy of being promoted. Those who practice deception or epistemic negligence would be condemned - their behavior would be seen as contrary to, even in violation of, what this culture perceives as good.

Carlson spoke of "European culture". Well, the idea of the love of wisdom is typically traced back to the ancient Greeks, with Aristotle being the first person to begin to formalize the principles of logic. So, on Carlson's standard, this would qualify.

However, in fact, the origin of these principles does not matter. There is a sense in which the love of wisdom emerged first in Asia - in the sense that the part of ancient Greece that saw the rise of the first philosophers was the eastern side of the Ionian sea - the area that is now western Turkey. The merit of an idea does not depend on where it was located. It is absurd to say that honesty has value if it originated in Miletus, but not in if it originated in Sparta or Tyre. Honesty is a virtue regardless of where it was first valued as such.

So, a culture worth preserving is one that values truth and wisdom. A country that values truth and wisdom is a country that recognizes that the location of the first part of the world to attach a high value to truth and wisdom is irrelevant to its merits. A culture that loves truth and wisdom is one that would look upon somebody declaring to his television audience that the location of culture is relevant to its merit as somebody worthy of condemnation - because he is obviously somebody who cares quite little about truth and wisdom.

This love of wisdom also would be one that recognizes that "hasty generalization" is a fallacious form of thinking - a way of thinking that the wise and reason-loving person would ignore.

A lover of wisdom knows that you can not begin with a premise that states, "An X has property Y" to "All X have property Y". You cannot infer, for example, from the premise that "one immigrant is guilty of rape" to "all immigrants should be thought of as rapists". In fact, a culture worth protecting - a culture that has true worth - is a culture that looks at somebody who makes such a claim and condemns that person for two important reasons.

The first reason for condemnation is the reason already mentioned - such a person has no love of truth or wisdom, and a culture worth protecting is one that promotes a love of truth and wisdom. A person with a love of truth and wisdom would say, "Nope, that doesn't follow. The evidence does not support that conclusion."

The second reason for condemnation is that such an attitude is unjust, and a culture worth protecting loves justice. A just society is one that has, as one of its core values, a principle of individual responsibility and accountability. If Person A commits a crime, one does not condemn or punish Person B. It is wrong . . . unjust . . . to punish an innocent person. A lover of justice is somebody who hates the idea of punishing an innocent person. Which means that, if Person A commits a crime, Person A is the person to be condemned or punished. If one goes beyond this and condemns Person B because Person B is from the same country, or has the same skin color, or speaks the same language as Person A, then one is punishing a potentially innocent person. This is something that the just person would want to avoid, and the unjust person does easily.

These are the combined flaws of bigotry. Bigotry consists in the use of derogatory overgeneralizations to promote a hatred of individuals who are innocent of the wrongs they are being condemned for. It represents two vices: (1) a disregard for truth and wisdom (sound reasoning), and (2) injustice - an eagerness to punish the innocent.

Some cultures are better than others . . . I grant that.

A culture that values truth, wisdom, and justice is better than one that has no interest in truth or wisdom and is willing - even eager - to condemn people for crimes they did not in fact commit.

There are a great many potential immigrants in the world - from all over the world - who shares these values.

The biggest threat to these values does not come from those immigrants, it comes from newscasters with a huge audience who seem to care nothing about truth, wisdom, or justice.

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