The Politically Incorrect Show - 08/05/2000
[Music - Die Fledermaus]
Good afternoon, KAYA ORAAAA & welcome to the Politically Incorrect Show on the free speech network, Radio Pacific, for Monday May 8, proudly sponsored by Neanderton Nicotine Ltd, the show that says bugger the politicians & bureaucrats & all the other bossyboot busybodies who try to run our lives with our money; that stands tall for free enterprise, achievement, profit & excellence against the state-worshippers in our midst; that stands above all for the most sacred thing in the universe, the liberty of the human individual.
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A persistent e-mail critic struck again over the weekend - it seems his mission is to persuade me that there can be no absolutes in morality, that morality is simply a matter of social convention, & by implication one should accept moralities different from one's own as merely reflecting differing social conventions. He quotes from Michael Shermer's The Unlikeliest Cult in History, an attack on the philosophy of Objectivism & its personnel.
"Morals do not exist in nature and thus cannot be discovered. In nature there are just actions - physical actions, biological actions, and human actions. Human actors act to increase their happiness, however they personally define it. Their actions become moral or immoral when someone else judges them as such. Thus, morality is a strictly human creation, subject to all the cultural influences and social constructions as other such human creations. ... A society that seeks greater happiness for its members by giving them greater freedom, will judge a Hitler or a Stalin as morally intolerable because his goal is the confiscation of human life, without which one can have no happiness. As long as it is understood that morality is a human construction influenced by human cultures, one can become more tolerant of other human belief systems, and thus other humans. But as soon as a group sets itself up to be the final moral arbiter of other people's actions, especially when its members believe they have discovered absolute standards of right and wrong, it is the beginning of the end of tolerance and thus, reason and rationality. It is this characteristic more than any other that makes a cult, a religion, a nation, or any other group, dangerous to individual freedom. This was (and is) the biggest flaw in Ayn Rand's Objectivism, the unlikeliest cult in history."
Untangling this fully would take more time than is available in one editorial. It is contradictory & incoherent - but it is the sort of "thinking" that dominates our sadly relativistic times. To say that an action is immoral ONLY when someone judges it to be so is a lethal cop-out, & gives a Hitler or Stalin license to plead, "My actions are not immoral because no one here has judged them to be so. In fact, the overwhelming majority here heartily approve of my actions, which makes them quite moral. We just happen to have a different belief system here. You should be more tolerant!"
Observe that Shermer accepts that Hitler & Stalin WOULD be condemned because their actions were inimical to human life & happiness ... but does he accept that they SHOULD be condemned on those grounds? By his own non-standard, he cannot - there is no absolute standard of right & wrong, not even human life & happiness; Hitler & Stalin just happened to have a different view on certain matters from ours, & operated in the context of cultures which embraced that view.
Observe also that Shermer worries about the threat to reason, rationality & individual freedom posed by groups believing in absolutes. But why should he care, if these values are not absolute?
The reality is, a group of people who HAVE discovered genuinely absolute standards of right & wrong CANNOT be dangerous to individual freedom, because such people know that such standards demand the highest respect for it. Cults, religions, nations & other collectives become dangerous not when they uphold absolutes as such, but when they hold as an absolute that the individual exists for, is subordinate to, & is the property of, the collective. Shermer implies that this view is perfectly acceptable if it happens to be the conventional one. For all his protestations, he has an absolute of his own - majority opinion. To see the consequences of THIS view for individual freedom, just look around you.
The answer is not to eschew absolutes, but to find the right ones!
Politically Incorrect Show, where human life is the standard, happiness the purpose, & reason & freedom the tools - absolutely ... 309 3099.
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