Monday 21 March 2011

Political Correctness and "I just don't understand..."


Political Correctness reveals its core of nihilism when expressing its lack of understanding of evil.

A staple of PC discourse is to depict some atrocity then to conclude with "I just don't understand it".

As Tolkien so memorably depicted in Lord of the Rings, it is characteristic of evil not to understand, in particular evil cannot understand good.

Good comprehends all, including evil (at a metaphysical level this is because Good is primary and evil a negation).

But PC cannot comprehend evil. Because PC is derived from, based-upon, an expression-of nihilism - that is upon the denial of reality, or the relativity of reality (same thing) - PC is so radically incomplete, truncated, self-refuting a moral system that it has lost the ability to understand evil.

For PC evil is merely random, an inexpicable atrocity - a disequilibrium; but soon explained-away soon forgotten, soon re-framed.

But never understood.



Anonymous said...

This isn't really a PC thing, I don't think. Professing the inability to understand something you disapprove of is a very common form of moral posturing. (As Celia Green puts it, "I believe the lower classes eat fish and chips from newspaper. Whether this practice has anything to do with nutrition is not clear to me.") I hear this kind of thing from Christian conservatives at least as often as from the politically correct.

Bruce Charlton said...

Well, actually these are different - sometimes it is being ironical - communicating one thing by saying the opposite.

Professing an inability to understand something you disapprove of can, of course, be genuine ignorance, as when a child cannot comprehend the adult world.

Or like the example you give, it may be an affectation - here it is an indirect expression of disgust and an advertisement of elite isolation and a judgment that what lower classes do ought not to be of any concern - and (mostly) a parody of all these attitudes at once!

But the current usage in relation to atrocities is not like this. The people who use it are usually trying to advertise their omniscience. It is quite genuine incomprehension, as when an olden days sci-fi robot would suffer an electronic breakdown when fed illogic: repeating 'this does not compute!'

James Kalb said...

It's as if someone thought he had the right to believe in his fantasies as real, because there's no superior reality that trumps them, and is then shocked when something comes up that doesn't fit the picture. I suppose the "no superior reality" is the part you're calling nihilism. You could also call it self-divinization.

Alex said...

Since nihilism is supposed to be the belief in nothing as opposed to a mere absence of belief, how can anyone can be politically active on behalf of nothing?

Surely the apostles of political correctness are striving for something. Maybe it's a return to Eden or the creation of world in which even necessary discrimination is prohibited or some other utopian goal, but that's not nothing.

No matter how undesirable the ends of political correctness and the malevolence of its means, it does not seem to have a core of nihilism.

Nihilism has been associated with some modern political philosophies such as existentialism, but it's state of mind rather than a doctrine, I think.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Alex - I use nihilism to refer to the denial of ultimate reality, as defined in:

Brett Stevens said...

Mental playtime here: is this because in order to achieve a coherent worldview, evil must take SOME but not ALL OF reality into account?

It seems to me that most human errors (and from those, when layered in justification through defensiveness, sin) arise from seeing only a PARTIAL view of the world, such as what Michael Crichton calls "thin intelligence" or a false symbolic representation of reality, as Nietzsche alludes to (in "On Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense," which refers only to Boolean morality with its title).

The devil is in the details... meaning that the details don't add up. You get a pleasant vision, a simpler vision than life, and so it's such an easy solution -- like heroin or liberalism -- that you lunge for it and only later realize he left out the consequences, secondary effects, and other "details."

You're on a roll. I like the incisive nature of the last few pieces: you're going for the jugular, albeit like a gentleman.