Friday, 11 September 2015

Culture war disputes are never symmetrical, analysis is never impartial - in reality, no socio-political disputes are symmetrical, analysis can never be impartial

The assumption is that the ideal is an impartial analysis of the two sides in a sociopolitical dispute and that this should proceed by outlining the dispute in a symmetrical fashion.

This is, as I say, an assumption. there is nothing whatsoever to suggest that any of this is true.

Think of the way in which the tow sides are typically outlines in such classics as monarchical versus republican government, or capitalist versus socialist economics, conservatism and progressivism, Right and Left, one Presidential candidate against another...

Or the two sides in some kind of public dispute.

The deep problem is that the idea that there is an impartial, equally fair to both sides, way of articulating an significant disagreement, is itself an ideology - and a very modern ideology at that.

Impartiality, indeed, can only really have any operational meaning when applied to very highly controlled situations of procedural justice - asking, are the procedures being adhered to strictly, explicitly, with sufficient precision? But as legal experience shows, even here there is no objectivity, since there are different degrees of minuteness to the procedural examination.

So a procedure which is valid at one level of analysis may break down as the microscopic analysis of sub-procedures, and sub-sub-procedures reveals irregularities.

The ideal of impartial analysis of symmetrical disputes is indeed an utterly prejudiced and blinkered ways of conceptualizing a dispute - as our ancestors would instantly have recognized.

By contrast, the reality is that justice is the judgement of a wise, informed individual who wants to find the correct decision from the perspective of what is Good. Justice, rightness... these are aspects of Goodness; and it is the nature of Goodness that is at issue in all significant disputes.

Note: These reflections were stimulated by this interview - in which Ruth A Johnston engages in what is represented as an impartial analysis - one aspect of which is to regard the tow sides in a dispute in a symmetrical fashion. Yet, so far as I am aware, a symmetrical dispute has never, ever, happened in the history of the world - so such an analysis cannot possibly be valid:


Nicholas Fulford said...

Am I reading you correctly that a requirement of impartiality is itself lacking in impartiality?

I suppose in the sense that impartiality is for practical purposes not possible as everyone bring their history and biases to the table - including judges. Perhaps not vested is a better term, but how hard is to find someone who does not have some vestment in the case of culture war issues.

So then you bring up the question of the Good, which brings forward the problem of differing arguments about what that is. Now I would not disagree that this an important - perhaps even key - question that lies at the heart of the culture wars. And in the regard it should not be shied away from as there seem to be at least two often irreconcilable views about that. This requires a more fundamental examination of whether the Good is absolute or relative, and whether it is a human construct or something that stands outside of us.

It is an old question and deserves some serious reflection and discussion.

Anonymous said...

Darwin says whoever has grandkids did something good.

Amazingly those that believe the Bible seem to have more Grandkids. Therefore they win Darwins test of the Good.