Why I Don’t Endorse Liberal Philosophy

As noted, I embrace the conservative philosophical outlook and I do so for very specific reasons. Perhaps it will be easier, however, to explain why I do not embrace the liberal outlook. The complete list of reasons is quite long, but the primary one can be summed up in one word: coercion. If I were to sum up the liberal position as succinctly as I can, I would say that liberals want to use government to further humanitarian goals: a seemingly noble goal at first blush. My problem with this is that those things which qualify for worthwhile humanitarian goals vary from person to person. I have my own opinion on what should be pursued and supported, and you have yours. Sometimes we will agree; often, we will not. Yet, since liberals act through government with the power of coercion, there is no opt out from the programs they inflict upon us. The collective opinions of certain people are forced in their entirety on the rest of us. I must support abortion on demand (hypothetically) because that is a “humanitarian goal” endorsed by the majority. For similar reasons, I must in actuality support Food Stamps, Medicaid, and what-have-you despite whatever personal feelings I might have against such programs. It is this conception of “government” that I take issue with.

Liberals are all about collective action. Indeed, they are often referred to as collectivists, and conservatives as individualists. I have no quarrel with collective action in and of itself; my quarrel is with mandatory collective action. This is the difference between a government program and a charity. If I am forced to perform an action that I object to, or simply do not wish to do, you have stripped away a piece of my freedom and made me, to a certain extent, less free, perhaps not quite a slave, but approaching one, or at the very least, a serf.

Consider the following example. You and a friend (who is liberal) encounter a homeless man on the street dressed in little more than rags. Believing that it is a good thing to help the homeless man, your friend forcibly takes your coat and gives it to him. Clearly, this is a violation of your personal space, property, and freedom. Whatever good intentions the liberal had are nullified by his/her lack of respect for your own autonomy. He/she doesn’t have the right to force you to help. Should you help? Yes, but in a manner of your own choosing. If you elect not to help, that choice is between you and God, not between you and your liberal friend. The liberal does not have the right to imprison you should you decide not to help for reasons of your own. And that is what governmental coercion offers: do it our way, give us your (tax) money, or go to prison.

Expand this notion into the general population. Liberals wish to tax the wealthy to provide for the poor. They say it is patriotic and neighborly. Again, the issue is coercion. Government clearly cannot force a man to be truly patriotic; if it tries, it will just as likely stir up bitterness and resentment. Wealth taken without consent is theft, and patriotism is an emotion that cannot be force fed. Similarly, it is not in the government’s purview to force one to be neighborly. The government is neither my parent nor yours, if anything, the reverse is true. If I choose to be patriotic, I will support the government in whatever way I deem appropriate. Similarly, if I choose to be neighborly, I will assist whomever I wish to the extent I wish. I will not have government lurking over me as a kind of altruism enforcer—as if that makes any sense at all.

I would sum up the difference between the two philosophies as this: Liberals want to take care of you. Conservatives want you to take care of yourself. Which one, do you think, treats you like a child, and which one, like an adult? With our current government, I fully expect the corrosion of freedom to continue. I would warn my liberal friends, however, with this analogy: every law and regulation, be it applicable to corporations or the individual, is like a string tied from the governing body to its object whether such an object be the individual or a business. In and of itself, it is a small thing, barely noticeable. However, taken with hundreds, nay, thousands of others it becomes something of a threat. Inevitably, the time will come when you will find yourself cocooned, bound head to toe in the threads of law. At such a point, freedom will be lost to you and you will find yourself immobilized by the myriad laws you have constructed.

(Cue dramatic music and exit.)

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Absolute Truth

(I’m a fantasy writer and I wrote the following for my fantasy blog, but never got around to posting it there. So, I’m going to post it here as it deals with a philosophical question)

Today I’m going to drift into the philosophical (western analytical philosophy to be precise). Back in the day, when I was a philosophy major discussions about truth were all the rage (or is it rave?). Back then, I often heard claims like “There is no absolute truth.” Today, I just want to put that little baby to rest.

 

First, let’s distinguish: does the statement mean: 1) There is no absolute truth? Or 2) There is no absolute Truth? Truth in the first statement is a property of everyday propositions like: “It is sunny outside my window right now.” True or false? That depends on conditions outside my window. Truth in 2) refers (note the capital “T”) to an all-encompassing meaning-of-life like Truth: the TRUTH that will solve all our problems or provide direction to one’s life. Those who believe in an absolute Truth usually attribute such to God, or Love, or even something that cannot be fully grasped by human consciousness (both God and Love may actually be examples of such). Let’s go further and add the notion of morality. Most discussions of absolute vs. relative truth circle around morality. So, 1) becomes 1a) There is no absolute moral truth. And 2) becomes 2a) There is no absolute moral Truth.

 

To me, it seems clear that 1a) is patently false and 2a) is open to discussion. Let’s start with 1a. The easiest way to prove a statement is false is to provide counterexamples. How about: It is absolutely immoral to skin another person alive for your own amusement. True or false? Seriously, do you want to argue about that? How about: raping someone is absolutely immoral. True or false? Again. Who wants to argue about that? I think the point relativists want to make (if I can presume to speak for them) is that not all moral truths are absolute. Some are murky, others are even relative to a particular belief system. For example, the claim “It is immoral to steal” gets very murky if one steals to feed oneself or one’s family. I would count that as a fuzzy truth. Meanwhile, “It is one’s moral duty to attend Christmas mass” is only true for Christians. Hence, it is a relative truth.

 

Now, for 2a. Clearly, there are adherents to each side of this. One thing is obvious: if there is an absolute moral Truth, it is not easily understood. If it’s God, I think all theologians agree that the human mind cannot fully grasp His (or Her, or perhaps more appropriately, Its) nature. Likewise, Love or whatever else one feels inclined to posit, because if it were easily grasped, this would not be a very difficult question and the amount of disagreement on the matter demonstrates otherwise.

 

I could probably go on for weeks beating this horse with a club, but I doubt it would have much impact. Most people have made up their mind about this question and won’t change it because of something they read on my blog.

 

Anyway, does anyone want to share any thoughts on the matter?

Truth in Fantasy

(I’m a fantasy writer and I wrote the following for my fantasy blog, but never got around to posting it there. So, I’m going to post it here as it deals with a philosophical question)

What is truth? (A correspondence between what is said and the way things actually are—‘nuff said—actually, there are at least two other competing theories, but that’s the correct one) Anyway, back in the day when I was in college, my suitemates and I were always arguing about truth. A friend of mine was a relativist, and I was an absolutist, and we’d go on and on. That was then. This is now. What interests me now is how one deals with truth in a fantasy setting. Will you take a relativistic position? Or an absolutist one? Or be really daring and try to incorporate both?

 

Writing influences younger generations, so this is an important question. It is even more pertinent to the fantasy genre, because, I believe, the default audience of fantasy literature is a younger, more malleable, audience. Writers of fantasy should take that idea into consideration when they produce a work. What are the advantages of each approach (for now we will limit ourselves to absolutist versus relativistic)?

 

Writing relying on absolute truth is usually more stark and clear. The good guys and the bad guys are usually more clearly defined. Perhaps, that is also its weakness. It may be too simple for sophisticated consumption. Writing relying on relativistic truth is usually … well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done. At least not pure relativism. Such would be incoherent and untenable as a legitimate world or worldview. Relativism can only survive when it is limited in some fashion. I think the best solution is to start from an absolutist view and then muddy it. Some things are relative (the sacredness of Hannukah and Christmas, for example). Other things are simply fuzzy and unclear. Not too long ago, I read “Game of Thrones,” and was struck by an interesting line. He was describing Eddard Stark’s uniform as the Hand of the King. It was white, grey, and black: all the “shades of truth,” as he said. I thought that was a pretty good line. Although I think that is simply fuzzied truth and ignores the relativistic sides of some truths (emphasis on some, not all). Still, it was pretty cool. I’ve also seen novels where someone misleads someone by telling them the truth, just not all of the truth. That’s interesting too. Anyway, despite the muddied waters, I think the most important moral truths (and it is worth noting, that relativism and absolutism are usually applied to moral truths; they can be applied to others, but most often the discussion is usually a moral one) agree or tend to agree: don’t murder, don’t rape, don’t steal. Etc… That, I think, serves as a foundation that should only be muddied after said foundation is set.

 

Anyway, those were my thoughts for today.