We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

“The problem is not primarily intellectual; it’s moral. It seems that many professional academics have not been taught to develop the basic virtues of emotional self-restraint, justice, charity, and humility. They feel no need to hold in check their feelings of irritation, indignation, hatred – and fear. They recognise no obligation to be scrupulously fair to their opponents. They don’t understand that the most cogent critique is one that charitably construes the opposing case in the strongest possible terms, and only then sets about dismantling it.”

Nigel Biggar

38 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Lloyd Martin Hendaye

    Alas for principles, absent faith in some transcendent Higher Power, human reason, nature, spirit fail to constrain Cicero’s “O tempera, O mores!” under any pretext.

    Because all transcendent doctrines, of whatever nature, are fundamentally irrational, honest inquiry leads to essentially arbitrary, circular-reasoned, self-justification. Viewing Divinity not as an all-pervasive tropism towards Life and Light but an all-powerful old man with white whiskers, dwelling beyond space-and-time, stirring the quantum pot with a relativistic finger, most people say “Take it away!”

    Beset by doubts, the beatific Mother Theresa of Calcutta (d. 1996) counseled “etsi Deus daretur” (act as if Divinity exists). Just so, this leads to faith neither in one’s paltry self nor in some “vision of devout and learned” but in a dynamic, universal Pilgrim’s Progress: Being exists in essence as Potential; not in Being but Becoming lies The Way.

  • George Atkisson

    What? And give up that righteous indignation? That delicious frisson of publicly declaring one’s moral superiority? Just to show respect to those who are beneath contempt?

    They didn’t reach their lofty positions by being nice. They clawed, out maneuvered, and backstabbed their way to the top and they will damn well enjoy the perks of success.

  • Paul Marks

    Lloyd Martin Hendaye.

    When Cicero fell from favour in German academia and was replaced by a love of Julius Caesar (and one can date this to the late 19th century) then Germany, and the world, was open to great evil. As the English mother of the Kaiser Wilhelm II tried (in vain) to explain to him in her long letters – the intellectual and the moral are linked, bad ideas lead to bad morals which lead to bad conduct. People who have contempt for Cicero and support the destroyer of the Republic are not likely to behave well – indeed by their preferences they have shown anyone with wit that they intend to behave badly.

    The “cult of the gentleman” greatly improved conduct from the very late 17th century onwards – it no longer because the norm to murder one’s opponents in power disputes, indeed it became a mark of a gentleman to show SELF RESTRAINT and not follow brute passions against enemies (one of the many reasons that David Hume’s position “reason is and OUGHT TO BE [my stress] just the slave of the passions” is sickeningly evil).

    In academia rather than having one’s opponent burned alive for heresy or driven from the college, it became the custom to accept that there were rules of just conduct (including to an opponent who was intellectually in error), that one should ONLY use reason and evidence against an intellectual opponent – not threats of execution, or being driven in exile from the college.

    Such works as Cicero’s “On Duties” and Boethius’ “The Consolations of Philosophy” are not about engineering or any of the physical sciences – they are about how to be a good person and to exercise power (in politics or in any part of society – including the family) JUSTLY, just as the “Mediations” of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius is.

    Does anyone really suppose that such works are dear to the heart of modern academics? Or that they regard behaving like a “gentleman” with anything other than 1960s contempt?

    They, the academics and the students who follow their lead, now lie-without-shame and use any tactic to push Collectivist power doctrines.

    As recently as the 1940s Oxford was the university of Harold Prichard, Sir William David Ross, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis. Men who would have died before acting dishonourably. Does anyone seriously believe there are such people at Oxford now?

  • One thing that’s frustrating me in my return to academia is that while my professors may be very smart and know their subject thoroughly, many of them display very little intellectual curiosity. This is immediately apparent when they start speaking about something outside their area of expertise, and it’s often high-school level analysis. It’s as if they’ve used their brains to simply rote-learn a subject, never straying far from the orthodoxy, and never spent time thrashing out ideas just for the fun of it.

  • Paul Marks

    Of course John Finnis is at Oxford – but he is out of place there. Both as a Natural Law scholar (even in the 1930s the Logical Positivists were starting to gain more and more power in Oxford) and as an honourable man.

    Do I believe that sodomy should be illegal? No I do not. But to reject the legal (as well as the moral) position of every legal system before the 1960s (as if “at first there was darkness everywhere – and then the 60s said let-there-be-light”) out of hand, is demented.

    Judaism, Christianity and Islam contained quite a lot of profound thinkers and many non religious philosophers and legal thinkers agreed with them in holding that acts of male homosexuality were not just morally wrong, but should be unlawful. To answer these thinkers one must first study their reasoning and their starting principles – not just scream “homophobe” and organise “protests”.

    But that, carefully and respectfully examine thinking and produce a sensible response, is exactly what modern P.C. students (and P.C. academics) can-not-do – so they have to scream and ban people, because they do not have the wisdom and scholarship to answer them respectfully.

    That is why John Finnis should not be at Oxford – not because he is an insult to the university (as his enemies maintain), but because he (as a genuine scholar) is insulted by it. As, sadly, he would be by most modern universities.

    Being a university academic (full disclosure – as a young man, many decades ago now, I wanted to be one) is no longer an honour – it is a badge of shame.

  • John B

    ‘Professional academics’ sell snake-oil. They get miffed when rumbled so resort to bluster and ad hominem attacks on those who reveal their fakery.

  • Rudolph Hucker

    Should we be surprised that (as Nassim Taleb would say) these Intellectuals-Yet-Idiots have low emotional intelligence?

    Especially those who spout forth via TwitFace media, with no “skin in the game”, and no foresight or empathy for the consequences.

    As John B just mentioned, the ad hominem attacks are significant; a sure sign of emporers with no clothes that have been exposed.

  • bobby b

    Best quote from JP’s cited article:

    “By definition, a judgement discriminates, and a moral judgement discriminates between right and wrong. Unless we’re going to banish the public expression of moral judgements, we have to recognise that at least one kind of discrimination is perfectly legitimate.”

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Do I believe that sodomy should be illegal? No I do not. But to reject the legal (as well as the moral) position of every legal system before the 1960s (as if “at first there was darkness everywhere – and then the 60s said let-there-be-light”) out of hand, is demented. Judaism, Christianity and Islam contained quite a lot of profound thinkers and many non religious philosophers and legal thinkers agreed with them in holding that acts of male homosexuality were not just morally wrong, but should be unlawful. To answer these thinkers one must first study their reasoning and their starting principles – not just scream “homophobe” and organise “protests”.”

    Indeed. But I’ve found the problem to be universal. Challenge people to justify and defend their moral condemnation of homosexuality and similar deviations from the norms forbidden by past authoritarian societies on an intellectual and philosophical level, and many people are similarly unable to put together a coherent argument, and maintain it in the face of educated dispute. They instead shout “SJW!!!” and scream abuse. The duty to understand the justifications for one’s moral position run both ways, surely?

    When we consider either the history of opinion, or the ordinary conduct of human life, to what is it to be ascribed that the one and the other are no worse than they are? Not certainly to the inherent force of the human understanding; for, on any matter not self-evident, there are ninety-nine persons totally incapable of judging of it, for one who is capable; and the capacity of the hundredth person is only comparative; for the majority of the eminent men of every past generation held many opinions now known to be erroneous, and did or approved numerous things which no one will now justify.

    What Cicero practised as the means of forensic success, requires to be imitated by all who study any subject in order to arrive at the truth. He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion. The rational position for him would be suspension of judgment, and unless he contents himself with that, he is either led by authority, or adopts, like the generality of the world, the side to which he feels most inclination. Nor is it enough that he should hear the arguments of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. This is not the way to do justice to the arguments, or bring them into real contact with his own mind. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them; who defend them in earnest, and do their very utmost for them. He must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form; he must feel the whole force of the difficulty which the true view of the subject has to encounter and dispose of, else he will never really possess himself of the portion of truth which meets and removes that difficulty. Ninety-nine in a hundred of what are called educated men are in this condition, even of those who can argue fluently for their opinions. Their conclusion may be true, but it might be false for anything they know: they have never thrown themselves into the mental position of those who think differently from them, and considered what such persons may have to say; and consequently they do not, in any proper sense of the word, know the doctrine which they themselves profess. They do not know those parts of it which explain and justify the remainder; the considerations which show that a fact which seemingly conflicts with another is reconcilable with it, or that, of two apparently strong reasons, one and not the other ought to be preferred. All that part of the truth which turns the scale, and decides the judgment of a completely informed mind, they are strangers to; nor is it ever really known, but to those who have attended equally and impartially to both sides, and endeavored to see the reasons of both in the strongest light. So essential is this discipline to a real understanding of moral and human subjects, that if opponents of all important truths do not exist, it is indispensable to imagine them and supply them with the strongest arguments which the most skilful devil’s advocate can conjure up.

  • Chester Draws

    Judaism, Christianity and Islam contained quite a lot of profound thinkers and many non religious philosophers and legal thinkers agreed with them in holding that acts of male homosexuality were not just morally wrong, but should be unlawful.

    Do you think homosexuality ceased as a result?

    I’m not a strong libertarian, but this is one area it is easy to be one in. Sexual acts committed outside my home are simply not my business. I don’t have to like them, I merely have to tolerate them.

    I’m no more fond of the censorious right, waving the flag of “tradition”, than I am of the censorious left.

    Using Islam about as a moral code isn’t going to persuade me of very much, incidentally, because I view certain parts of it with abhorrence. I also note that you left out the Ancient Greek and Roman thinkers that we generally count as part of the Western tradition. Their view was usually rather different to the Judeo-Christian on matters of morals. One part of having a canon, is you don’t get to delete the bits that are inconvenient to your current argument.

  • Fraser Orr

    Lloyd Martin Hendaye
    Alas for principles, absent faith in some transcendent Higher Power, human reason, nature, spirit fail to constrain Cicero’s “O tempera, O mores!” under any pretext.

    I think this is a fancy ass way of saying without religion people become anarchic. But humans are naturally gregarious, naturally inclined toward hierarchy. Were we to eliminate all religion today, we would have started a few more within a year. As an atheist I find that depressing, but I also recognize that it is human nature.

    Because all transcendent doctrines, of whatever nature, are fundamentally irrational, honest inquiry leads to essentially arbitrary, circular-reasoned, self-justification.

    Perhaps, but there is an alternative to transcendence: science. It is a gross mistake to imagine that science suffers from this same fate of circular reasoning. Science is not quite circular, it is a tight spiral. As we zoom around the spiral we get closer and closer to the center, where is found the “truth”. The nature of science is pan-critical. Science criticizes its own methodology. And ultimately, at its core are the two doctrines of falsifiability and repeatability. Two doctrines that serve as a touch point, and a grounding. It is why in science there are no authorities, only experts. The authority is science is mother nature herself.

    (Now the practice and politics of modern science may well have strayed from that ideal, however, it is this ideal that has, along with free-ish markets, made us wealthier and healthier than ever before in history.)

    Beset by doubts, the beatific Mother Theresa of Calcutta (d. 1996) counseled “etsi Deus daretur” (act as if Divinity exists).

    This is a terrible idea. To act as if god exists is to genuflect to his putative earthly representatives. People like the beatific Theresa who, surrounded by the poverty, disease and death of Calcutta, recommended that the solution was to ban condoms and abortion. Condoms and the birth control pill are perhaps two of the most leveraged inventions of history because by allowing women to control their fertility they allow women to cease being the baby machines of old and actually participate and contribute to the creation of human knowledge and civilization.

    If we are to “act as if god existed” and to genuflect to his priests and pastors, we must adopt their priorities too. Consider this: Jesus’ world was a terrible place. Slavery was rampant, women were little more than chattel, people had few rights, and the criminal justice system was capricious, cruel, arbitrary and at the whim of the powerful. With so many dreadful crimes surrounding him what did Jesus get pissed about? From what I know the only time he kicked up a fuss was when he found the prices were too high in the shops in the temple. Slavery? “Slaves obey your master as the Lord”. “Temple gift shop is a rip off”, whips and scourges and turning over tables.

    Which is to say religious leaders prioritize religious matters above all other things. And that is horrifying.

  • Flubber

    “Sexual acts committed outside my home are simply not my business. I don’t have to like them, I merely have to tolerate them.”

    tell that to kids at Pride marches, or any of our demented constabularies.

  • Mr Ed

    I read the opening words as a dig at A. C. Grayling.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . tell that to kids at Pride marches . . . “

    Those kids are marching only because anti-gays won’t mind their own business.

    I don’t like pumpkin-flavored ice cream, but I don’t persecute and punish people who do, which is why you never ever see lovers of pumpkin-flavored ice cream marching in the streets. They don’t have to. I mind my own business.

  • CaptDMO

    “The problem is not primarily intellectual…..et cetera”
    We NEED more High EQ women in positions of power in academics, military, politics, AND corporate boardrooms!

  • Biff

    “It seems that many professional academics have not been taught to develop the basic virtues of emotional self-restraint, justice, charity, and humility.”

    Indeed, a fair case can be made that they’ve actively been taught the opposite. Universities have become little more than training programs for activists. Modern-day activists are not known for their “emotional self-restraint, justice, charity, and humility.”

    Note: There is a reason academics and activists speak of “social justice” instead of simply speaking about “justice.”

  • Julie near Chicago

    Hm. “Groupthink, and why they need to censor us.” 5 or 6 min. May be some truth to it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7wc4z2QGKU&feature=youtu.be

  • Paul Marks

    Nullius in Verba – you have made some good points, which I will have to think about when I am less tired.

    Chester Draws – what is it about “no I do NOT” think homosexual acts should be illegal that you do not understand?

    As for John Finnis being part of the “censorious right, waving the flag of tradition”.

    You are, unintentionally, proving my point.

    You have not got a clue who John Finnis is – you clearly have not read his works (and. full disclosure, I have not read any books of his for many years now), yet you see fit to abuse him.

    It is like me saying how ugly you are Chester – without even seeing you.

    Still off to bed. I need to make an effort to sleep before the morning nonsense starts.

  • Chester Draws

    Do I believe that sodomy should be illegal? No I do not. But to reject the legal (as well as the moral) position of every legal system before the 1960s (as if “at first there was darkness everywhere – and then the 60s said let-there-be-light”) out of hand, is demented.

    It is “demented” to turn our back on making it illegal, but you’re in favour of doing so? That is a position I do not understand at all. You appear to be arguing that your own position is demented.

    I conclude that the “No I do not” is merely the motte of a motte-and-bailey argument. When challenged you retreat to it, but otherwise you expand out to your actual demand.

    And where did I say John Finnis is waving the flag of tradition? I merely don’t think the right’s arguments for intolerance are any better than the left’s. You raised the issue of Mosaic religions’ position, and I (a) don’t like that as an argument based on tradition and (b) find it amusing that Greek and Roman philosophy is unmentioned.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “It is “demented” to turn our back on making it illegal, but you’re in favour of doing so?”

    I believe the objection was to doing so *out of hand*. A problem arises when something becomes unconsidered dogma, imposed by reflex, and on which any sort of dissent or debate is considered out of bounds. This applies just as much to hysterically forbidding homophobia as it does to forbidding homosexuality.

    There are intelligent arguments to be made on both sides of the debate, and you have to know *both* sides to make a rational decision, and therefore we must all allow both to be heard, and to listen to them. I think Paul’s point was that while having heard the arguments himself he had concluded that homosexuality should not be illegal, he was annoyed and frustrated by all the people jumping to judgement without knowing the reasoning/justification for their own opinions. “To answer these thinkers one must first study their reasoning and their starting principles – not just scream “homophobe” and organise “protests”.” Which is not to say that Paul doesn’t think they can be answered.

    “And where did I say John Finnis is waving the flag of tradition?”

    Paul was talking about John Finnis and other thinkers making arguments for the illegality of homosexuality, and you responded: “I’m no more fond of the censorious right, waving the flag of “tradition”, than I am of the censorious left.” Who were you talking about, if not these thinkers? And if you’re not talking about them, how does it answer Paul’s point?

    The question here is not over whether homosexuality should be allowed, but over whether we should be allowed to debate it – whether scholars like John Finnis should be allowed to put forward dissenting arguments. It’s a subtle distinction, and easy to miss!

    I suspect we all agree on this, but have misunderstood one another’s points.

  • The duty to understand the justifications for one’s moral position run both ways, surely? (Nullius in Verba, February 1, 2019 at 5:57 pm)

    (Just in case it would interest anyone in this thread) long ago, Natalie posted for me ‘A reply to Brian Micklethwaite’s post about projection’, which touches on that (in relation to two subjects, one of them the one that prompted Nullius’ comment here).

  • Fred Z

    Chester Draws:

    How can it be that Sexual acts committed outside your home are not your business, but killings committed outside your home are your business? What of homosexual acts on willing children, outside your home, perhaps with the consent of their parents?

    I have no doubt that some are born to be homosexual, but some are born to be thieves, or murderers or annoying selfish and self righteous academics.

    The possible moral and then physical collapse of your civilization should interest you more than it does. Watching the utterly insane and chaotic actions of large groups of homosexual men at their public events make me believe that is a risk.

  • bobby b

    “How can it be that Sexual acts committed outside your home are not your business, but killings committed outside your home are your business?”

    Because sexual acts are consensual, but killings rarely are.

    “What of homosexual acts on willing children, outside your home, perhaps with the consent of their parents?”

    They are just like heterosexual acts on those same children. They are our business because they are not consensual. You’re confusing consensual homosexuality with nonconsensual pedophilia. Fun fact: there are far more heterosexual pedophiles than homosexual ones.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “(Just in case it would interest anyone in this thread) long ago, Natalie posted for me ‘A reply to Brian Micklethwaite’s post about projection’, which touches on that (in relation to two subjects, one of them the one that prompted Nullius’ comment here).”

    I found it interesting. It does look like a good attempt to understand an opponent’s position, which I applaud. For what it’s worth, the topic discussed there – the idea that the worst homophobes are repressed homosexuals – is something I’ve seen in real life, although I’d not describe it quite like that, and it’s far from universally true. It’s more like a self-defensive virtue-signalling. When living in a rigid authoritarian society with strictly enforced rules on behaviour, people who are especially nervous of being caught transgressing those rules sometimes overcompensate by being especially loud and aggressive in enforcing group standards. Although I saw it mostly with boys caught up in a violently ‘macho’ group culture, it’s not specific to homosexuality. It’s a general pattern in any group with strongly enforced group norms. In Stalinist Russia, neighbour denounced neighbour as unSoviet, not because they actually were strong believers in the Party orthodoxy, but primarily out of fear that they might be perceived unSoviet themselves.

    “The possible moral and then physical collapse of your civilization should interest you more than it does.”

    This is the common reasoning given by virtually all authoritarians: that society has both the right and duty to enforce its own norms on others for their own good and for the good of society. Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz.

    However, precisely this sort of thinking has led to far more historical atrocities and civilisational collapses than the norm-breaking being complained of. We are concerned about the possible moral and physical collapse of our civilization, which is why we oppose anyone trying to impose their own way of life on others “for the good of society” or “to preserve social stability”. The only justification for society to restrict any individual’s freedom is to prevent unconsented harm to others. To persecute people merely for being different has been shown historically to be a far worse threat to civilisation and public morality than mere alt-sex.

  • Paul Marks

    Chester Dawes I will explain to you a third time.

    I have said that I support homosexual acts being legal.

    What I have also said is that the logical and moral arguments of people such as John Finis (and just about every legal thinker before the 1960s) have to be understood – and answered. Not just dismissed. That is what academia use to be about – indeed it used to be about what intellectual life in general (outside academia) used to be about.

    There is nothing difficult in what I have said (now three times) a person of average intelligence would have no difficulty understanding it.

    You do understand what I am saying Sir – you are just pretending that you do not understand. And I am in no mood to play such games.

    Good day to you Sir.

    Nullius – you seem to be falling into error (although I may have MISUNDERSTOOD you), dismissing thousands of years of detailed moral and legal argument with stuff about “homophobes” being “repressed homosexuals” and on and on.

    It is normally ME who forgets to click on links (as I prefer a post to just say what it is about, without me needing to click on a link to find out what it is about – but this time I did click on the link) – the link in the post is to the persecution of John Finnis in Oxford, it is nothing to do with “homophobes” a term from Frankfurt School of Marxism types and their efforts to “medicalise dissent” by claiming that those who oppose them suffer from a form of mental illness a “phobia” or whatever.

    Can there not a real effort to stay on topic? I go on great diversions – but they always go back to the topic at the end (I plan out the circle – I know it is going to go back to the topic at the end). This thread seems determined to actually IGNORE the matter of the post – i.e. ACADEMIC FREEDOM.

    The topic (of THIS POST – not some other post) being NOT homosexuality, but rather the refusal of people in universities to play by the rules – namely to listen to the argument and then to reply to it. Understanding that one will NOT be able to convert everyone to one’s own point of view.

    Instead we get “protests” and demands that people be banned for their OPINIONS.

    This need not, and normally does not, have anything to do with homosexual acts. It can be (say) arguing that the British Empire did more good than harm. Or arguing that it is best that children be brought up by married mothers and fathers. Or arguing that tax rates should be lower. Or that licensing laws be removed. Any of that can be denounced as “racist” or “classist” or whatever ist. And then one could organise a protest to get someone who, for example, was arguing for lower taxes fired.

    Professor Pigou (Cambridge early to mid 20th century) claimed that people should not be allowed to argue for taxes and spending below a certain level – as this was an attack upon the poor, but his words were regarded as an eccentric outburst – and he did not follow them up (J.M. Keynes cited Professor Pigou as a laissez faire supporter in his “General Theory…” of 1936 as an “in joke” as Professor Pigou was anything but that – sadly generations of half educated students have wrote essays citing Pigou as part of the laissez faire that Keynes was trying to get away from).

    Harold Laski (Professor Laski – also Chairman of the Labour Party) briefly argued than elected Conservative government should not be allowed to reverse the “Social Reform” of a Labour government, but again this was dismissed as a outburst and Professor Laski did not push the idea of censorship and control. Perhaps his words were just frustration and, perhaps, he repented of them.

    If one can just organise a protest against someone and get them fired (or banned from teaching) then it is all over. The whole academic enterprise (indeed the whole intellectual enterprise) is over.

    Why I do I need to type these words? I am typing what everyone in the thread already knows – but, for some reason, are not saying.

    Following threads has become a waste of time, that is plain. And now it is late at night again (0115). I have had enough.

    Last time – the matter is not homosexual acts, the matter is the proper conduct of universities and of intellectual life in general.

    One does NOT organise “protests” against people because one disagrees with their arguments (especially when has not even read those arguments and does not know what they are), one does NOT try and get them sacked from their teaching posts, and one does not “dox” someone by going to the employer and saying “your pastry chief” (or whatever) “has said something racist [or classist – or whatever] on line – FIRE HIM!”

    Again I should not have needed to type the above. And I am not going to waste any more time on this thread. Where people do not even seem to have read the post or clicked on the link. It is normally ME who forgets to click on links – because I regard them as silly (one should just say what one wants to say in the post itself), but this time I made the effort and actually did click on the link. Sadly it appears that no one else clicked on the link – and I am, consequentially, talking to myself.

  • Misfit

    On the matter of considerate, mannerly discussion and intellectual intercourse.
    Conservatives, or more broadly, those who usually prefer to weigh and nuance their comments, are laboring under the misapprehension that there is a debate taking place.
    There is not.
    It is a war.

  • Slartibartfarst

    It seems to be that fanatical, fascistic illiberalism is slowly becoming acceptable as the new norm in so-called “academia” – at least, in what were previously democratic Western societies – with implicitly/explicitly threatened violence against speakers of contradictory thought being used to shut down valid debate where political correctness is challenged.
    .
    In the US – to its great shame – a classic case was the McCarthy era of “reds under the bed”, where many people’s lives/careers were deliberately ruined by the government witch-hunts, because the stigmatised villains of the time (e.g., including Communists/Marxists) dared to think and speak and act for their beliefs/principles.
    .
    It’s kind of déjà vu now, with the shoe seemingly on the other foot, with fascistic marxist demonstrations such as the 2017 Berkeluy U. riots setting the standard for what people might need to expect if they don’t think/speak/act in the “right”/correct way. Hillary would probably say that it serves them right for being “undesirables”, but I couldn’t comment.
    There’s a huge gulf between the concept of “freedom of speech” and the allowing of that freedom, and, currently the governments of western democracies arguably don’t seem able to want to do a terribly good job of protecting those rights, nor the safety of the people exercising those rights. Maybe there is method here – a reluctance to do so because a cowed population is certainly more easily controllable.
    .
    A couple of weeks ago, I returned home from Teheran after a highly successful buying trip (mostly Persian rugs and carpets), which should enable my client to stock his warehouse and meet customer demand for the year ahead. Due to the economic situation in Iran, prices were extremely good for us and it was a foreign buyer’s market – if one had the requisite $ currency with which to pay. Very good exchange rate.
    I had to travel to a warehouse in a fringe suburb of Teheran, where they had excellent stocks – even of the Bukhara (which are my personal favourite). The warehouse was off to one side of a market area around a square – an open space – and when I arrived there were a couple of cranes being moved about for (I thought) some construction work.
    Whilst I was in the warehouse, examining their stocks and negotiating, I could hear some loudspeakers blaring some bloke’s voice out and there was some crowd noise, but I didn’t pay it much mind as I was too busy dealing. Though I speak Farsi I couldn’t discern what was being said as the warehouse walls muffled the sound. So I was surprised when, having finished my business and signed the contract with the lawyers, I came outside and saw the bodies of two men hanging motionless by the necks, suspended from the two cranes in the square.
    .
    “What happened here?” I asked my lawyer.
    He explained that there had been a public execution of two homosexuals, who had broken Sharia law with their homosexual liaisons. It is not a crime to be a homosexual in Iran and it is regarded sympathetically as a treatable psychological illness (a mental health issue), but homosexual liaisons may be punishable by death. The purpose in it being a public spectacle is of course to get the message out about what happens to transgressors of the prevailing law.
    I looked at those still bodies in awe – I had never seen anything like it before – and I thought about the brilliant mathematician Turing who was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts, when by the Labouchere Amendment, “gross indecency” was a criminal offence in the UK. He accepted chemical castration treatment, with DES, as an alternative to prison. He apparently committed suicide in 1954, 16 days before his 42nd birthday.
    The Allies lost hundreds of thousands of lives fighting the fascist extremism of the great and glorious Third Reich, so that we could live as a free people without the yoke of tyranny. Ironically, despite being subjugated by an arguably fascistic and tyrannical English law banning homosexuality, Turing played an enormous part in defeating the fascist Nazi scourge, due to his work in Hut 8 in the Bletchley Park campus, and he left a huge legacy of scientific achievement for our society.
    .
    Things seemed to become more liberal, and Turing would not be forced by society to suffer today as he was made to suffer in his lifetime. But the pendulum swings back and forth, and now it is we who are tending towards fascism – and if you can’t see it happening, then ask your neighbours, or the constituents around Berkeley U. campus, or even (say) my friends the Iranians, what they see.
    We are becoming the fascists now, and we’re going to want to give it some stimulating exercise before we can get it out of our system and exorcise it.
    .
    Some people (not me, you understand) might say that Freedom seems to be a myth, and academic freedom doubly so. They might point out that there is no real respect for freedom, nor for human life, and that discussing “academic freedom” like this in airy terms, in this forum or elsewhere, whilst having sanctioned infanticide on a gobsmacking scale that probably puts Hitler’s 15,000/day (max productivity) death camps to shame would seem to be just so much sanctimonious drivel, but I couldn’t possibly comment.
    .
    If you asked any Iranian, they would probably be able to point out that it is the West’s abandonment of religion and God that is simultaneously the weakest and worst thing about western society, and that they have in the Koran the absolute and infallible word of Allah which could restore academic and other necessary human freedoms to the West – much as they were in the Golden Age of Islam.
    They would say that you don’t find academics in Iran whinging about “academic freedom” – and I certainly haven’t come across any, anyway.
    The wisdom of Allah is wise and all-knowing.

  • It is not a crime to be a homosexual in Iran and it is regarded sympathetically as a treatable psychological illness (a mental health issue), but homosexual liaisons may be punishable by death. (Slartibartfarst, February 3, 2019 at 5:11 am)

    In the words of Don Alhambra del Bolero, Grand Inquisitor of Balatario (bass-baritone), “That’s a very nice distinction”. 🙂

    English law merely banned the specific act of rear-end penetration. I sometimes annoy lefties by pointing out that the arguments on which they justified their ever-more-wide-ranging smoking bans would, since the advent of AIDS, suffice to justify much of the old law – and that the way our government, after the Marchioness disaster, announced that the laws on drink-driving now applied to drink-sailing without holding a vote gives precedent to any administration that wished simply to announce that no-smoking laws also applied in toto to this other activity that is the major western vector for that yet-more-deadly disease. I suppose that would be a good example of the kind of argument that academia would refuse to debate and (if they could) refute.

    (Please observe the skill with which, as Paul advises, my last sentence brings the specifics of my comment back to the general topic of this post. 🙂 )

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall, you can also point out to them that AIDS is a contagious disease. Smoking is not, nor is cancer or the other lung diseases it may be a factor in causing.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Nullius – you seem to be falling into error (although I may have MISUNDERSTOOD you)”

    The first half of my post was in answer to Niall’s link to a previous discussion. That discussion was indeed on a different topic.

    The second part of my post was in answer to Chester, as part of the current discussion, and contained the link you clicked on.

    To understand what I was going on about, you would have needed to click on Niall’s link, not mine.

    “This thread seems determined to actually IGNORE the matter of the post – i.e. ACADEMIC FREEDOM.”

    Academic freedom would give them all the freedom to ignore the rules of good debate. What we’re really talking about is academic standards. Free speech applies to everyone, not just academia, and would permit Finnis to write as he does but would permit everyone else to ignore him and dismiss him. However, as my quote from JS Mill explained AT LENGTH, academics with standards would know that they have to listen to him and understand his arguments first before dismissing them. They can’t just scream “homophobe!” and get him fired. That’s no way to win an argument. As was said in the headpost: “They don’t understand that the most cogent critique is one that charitably construes the opposing case in the strongest possible terms, and only then sets about dismantling it.”

    And furthermore, it’s a lesson BOTH sides need to learn. While SOME of us see the need to examine both sides of the debate before coming to judgement, and will politely listen to opponents respectively before constructing detailed rational explanations of why they’re wrong, there are just as many who, on hearing a position they don’t like or agree with, are ready to scream “SJW!” (or “Marxist!”) and demand they be purged from academia without debate as there are who scream “Homophobe!” and do the same. That’s not good. We should be better than them.

    Read my JS Mill quote again. Is there anything further that needs to be said in this debate that Mill didn’t already say 160 years ago?

    “it is nothing to do with “homophobes” a term from Frankfurt School of Marxism types and their efforts to “medicalise dissent” by claiming that those who oppose them suffer from a form of mental illness a “phobia” or whatever.”

    The meanings of ‘phobia’ and ‘philia’ have broadened from their medical meanings. Coming from their Greek roots they just mean ‘hate of’ and ‘like of’. (As in ‘bibliophile’ – it doesn’t mean someone turned on sexually by books.) It was the medics misusing the word to describe a mental condition. Don’t read more into the words than was intended.

    However, had it been intended that way, one could certainly argue there was some justice in it, given the way that homosexuality *WAS* medicalised, and treated as a mental illness. Following the behaviourists, there was even ‘aversion therapy’ which amounted to outright torture! That’s the precedent set by those who condemned homosexuality in THIS country within living memory, (not to mention the penalties under Sharia law, or pink triangles, or Alan Turing, or Oscar Wilde collapsing in jail, or …), and is the legacy that supporters of that position have to live down. Having been shown how to do it by those who persecuted gays, why should those who now want to persecute homophobes not emulate them? Of course, NEITHER side deserves to be treated like that, but perhaps a little bit of self-awareness of the HISTORY of the belief and why people get so angry about it would go a long way to improving mutual understanding.

    Socialists certainly need to be aware of the history of their own movement – how many people it killed and tortured – and answer the points that history raises. And they’re very bad at doing so; they are commonly in denial. But homophobes have a similar sort of history that is, if less bloody, far longer. We need socialist academics to expound on the history of socialist thought, just as we need natural law academics to expound on the history of Christian attitudes to homosexuals. We do indeed need to understand them. Because part of that understanding is knowing that we’re all the same. Authoritarianism – the belief that society has the right and duty to impose its norms on members for their own good and for the good of society – is hardwired into humanity, and we are all human. We all have cognitive blindspots, and we need other people with different blindspots to tell us what we cannot see.

    The maxim coming to us from antiquity is “KNOW THYSELF”. Γνώθι Σεαυτόν. “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” Listen and learn.

    “It’s kind of déjà vu now, with the shoe seemingly on the other foot, with fascistic marxist demonstrations such as the 2017 Berkeluy U. riots setting the standard for what people might need to expect if they don’t think/speak/act in the “right”/correct way.”

    We’ll be fighting in the streets
    With our children at our feet
    And the morals that they worship will be gone
    And the men who spurred us on
    Sit in judgement of all wrong
    They decide and the shotgun sings the song

    I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
    Take a bow for the new revolution
    Smile and grin at the change all around
    Pick up my guitar and play
    Just like yesterday
    Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
    We don’t get fooled again

    The change, it had to come
    We knew it all along
    We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
    And the world looks just the same
    And history ain’t changed
    ‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the last war

    I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
    Take a bow for the new revolution
    Smile and grin at the change all around
    Pick up my guitar and play
    Just like yesterday
    Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
    We don’t get fooled again
    No, no!

    I’ll move myself and my family aside
    If we happen to be left half alive
    I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky
    Oh I know that the hypnotized never lie
    Do ya?

    There’s nothing in the streets
    Looks any different to me
    And the slogans are replaced, by the bye
    And a parting on the left
    Is now a parting on the right
    And the beards have all grown longer overnight

    I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
    Take a bow for the new revolution
    Smile and grin at the change all around
    Pick up my guitar and play
    Just like yesterday
    Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
    We don’t get fooled again
    Don’t get fooled again
    No, no!

    Meet the new boss
    Same as the old boss

  • Niall, you can also point out to them [lefties] that AIDS is a contagious disease. Smoking is not. (Julie near Chicago, February 3, 2019 at 10:10 am)

    Julie, I’ve slightly rephrased my comment to indicate it is about the “ever-more-wide-ranging smoking bans” we have here.

    – On the one hand, I have met an attitude from UK lefties towards smokers that makes an excellent analogy with old attitudes they claim to hate. It was not long after the year 2000 that an area I was in promulgated a “smokers in the public street cannot congregate in one place” law. When I ventured the opinion that this addition to several recently-issued anti-smoker regulations was excessive, a man in his 20s, fresh out of University, promptly and vehemently replied, “They deserve it!”

    – On the other hand, the formal justification of many of these bans is “the danger of passive smoking” – dangers which successive much-hyped stories routinely report as “twice as dangerous as previously thought” and then “four times more dangerous than scientists previously said” (in their last report), etc. So, formally, the analogy works because their public justification is mostly couched in terms of the alleged danger to people who choose to visit a pub that allows smoking, or choose to work there, even though in fact contempt for the lifestyle, and desire to ‘protect people from themselves’ quite as much as from others, is pretty open.

    FYI, I suspect that research into passive-smoking is as politicised as into global warming and functions by doubling the fudge-factors whenever a new law requires a new justifying scare but I should note that I have not researched its statistics nearly as much as I have researched those of climate science.

  • Nullius in Verba (February 3, 2019 at 10:50 am), on the one hand, I have to endorse your saying to Paul that your earlier response (Nullius in Verba, February 2, 2019 at 4:11 pm) was a legitimate comment on my link. In the old samizdata post, I’d remarked that I could not off-hand think of an Anglosphere public domain counter-example to what I was saying, though very ready to believe there could be some – precisely because I did not doubt it sometimes occurred (“The lady doth protest too much” is a quote we all remember because we all know we may one day find reason to use it about something or other). Implicitly, your silence suggested to me that you too could not offhand think of a public-domain instance, but explicitly you said you had seen it in private setting.

    On the other hand, when you said

    there are just as many who, on hearing a position they don’t like or agree with, are ready to scream “SJW!” (or “Marxist!”) and demand they be purged from academia without debate as there are who scream “Homophobe!” and do the same

    I found myself smiling at your suggestion there were just as many. You could not possibly find equal numbers today and if we were totalling over a century I still seriously doubt that in academia you could do so. I have little time for E.M.Forster, but I recall his saying in some pre-WWI remark that people on his (modern-sense liberal) side of some argument (I forget exactly what) had to be very reasonable and courteous in their presentation, just to get a hearing. I am not sure that was wholly true in the academia of his day but I can well believe that in other parts of Edwardian Britain it was very true indeed. Today, the practical knowledge that the utmost tact may be required to get the craziest SJW reigned in even slightly in a typical modern university ensures that people who attempt it tend to be cautious, while people who merely fume on social media may be individually embarrassing to us but are statistically out-fumed by the SJWs themselves.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “I found myself smiling at your suggestion there were just as many. You could not possibly find equal numbers today and if we were totalling over a century I still seriously doubt that in academia you could do so.”

    🙂 I doubt they would do so to the same degree in the public square, but people are a lot more free and open on blogs and similar.

    And you may be overestimating the true believers in academia, too. Most people, I think, keep their heads down and try to fit in to what seems to be the prevailing culture to avoid trouble. Knowing you can get fired for it is a powerful incentive to keep quiet.

    Someone once pointed me to an interesting survey on the Americans. The politically vocal groups they classify as “the wings” are about 8% Progressive Activists, versus 6% Devoted Conservatives and 19% Traditional Conservatives. There’s the Tea Party, the Trump Base. They’re not as activist as the left is – more likely to grump in private than go on a protest march, boycott, or sign petitions – but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. And for that matter, there are plenty of liberal lefties who are *not* Progressive Activists, and don’t like all the political correctness either. (The reports says: “Furthermore, the wing groups, which often dominate the national conversation, are in fact in considerable isolation in their views on certain topics. For instance, 82 percent of Americans agree that hate speech is a problem in America today, but 80 percent also view political correctness as an issue. By contrast, only 30 percent of Progressive Activists believe political correctness is a problem.”)

    I would gather from that that actually most people nowadays are like us – they don’t like or agree with homophobes, and they’re not going to go far out on a limb to defend them, but they don’t themselves think it should be illegal or merit punishment.

    For that matter, I’m pretty sure that in the 1940s and 1950s there were a lot of people who sympathised with homosexuals. They just weren’t going to say so in public, because they knew what would likely happen to their social standing if they did. But apparently a lot of Alan Turing’s work colleagues during the war already knew about his homosexuality and didn’t say anything. And it wouldn’t have been legalised in the first place if there had been no public support for the idea.

    However, I don’t have any solid statistics to back my opinion up, so if you want to put it down to rhetorical hyperbole, feel free. (I was actually thinking of the sort of arguments I get into on blogs, which is obviously a biased sample!)

  • Nullius in Verba (February 3, 2019 at 4:46 pm), like you, though with a very different perception of frequency, I have sometimes encountered anti-PC arguments where I think, “No, you are confabulating there – guessing at the thinking of someone very unlike you (or me)” or “Actually, that rebuttal is not quite logically coherent”, etc. However my scepticism that these even come close to the PC in frequency or extremity is based, as it should be, on my experience but not only on that.

    “We know that cognitive diversity is vital for political accuracy yet almost all political institutions and the media – including the dominant people at Newsnight, the Economist, the FT, and Parliament – are actually remarkably homogenous.” (Dominic Cummings: how the Brexit referendum was won)

    I (and you?) assume that cognitive diversity is good, and living in a bubble is bad. Thinking that, and living in a country (as I do, at least) where we must all pay the BBC to push left-leaning arguments down our throats – where one would have to make an effort to avoid knowing their ideas, arguments and data, and I must make an effort to encounter anything remotely resembling the same amount of rival arguments and rival data – there would have to be something wrong in the belief that cognitive diversity is good if it were true that equal incompetence is shown by members of the conforming-to-today’s-orthodoxy and dissenting-from-today’s-orthodoxy groups.

    Here, of course, I may sound like those socialists and others who challenge what you tell them because their theory says it cannot be so. 🙂 However I do have some empirical evidence beyond my own anecdotes. In the US, the experiment has been done of giving separate conservative and liberal groups a questionnaire on their opinions and justifications on a range of politcal topics. A second timed paper then asks them to describe what the other group’s opinions and justifications would be. 100% scores are doubtless rare on either side, but it is reported that conservatives effortlessly outperform liberals on this test – exactly as the ‘value of cognitive diversity’ theory would predict.

  • Nullius in Verba

    And yet, despite all the public institutions pushing the same line, 52% voted for Brexit, and Trump got voted President. Explanation?

  • Nullius in Verba (February 3, 2019 at 5:31 pm), my main explanation FWIW would centre on their having the disadvantages of their great advantages – mainly, on precisely the lack of cognitive diversity their power inflicted on them.

    As regards Trump, the PC had immense success before his election in terrifying lots of people (including some on this blog) into thinking him far beyond the wretched political norm in ways to fear, not just in ways that could be on balance preferable, while others were terrified because they bought the PC certainty he could not win. That was immense gain to the PC, but such control of the narrative comes at a price. After he won, this comic piece (presented as if on the morning after his victory) illustrated one aspect of the downside of such aggressive narrative-control.

    The same is true of Brexit. Having the media disproportionately on your side is not an unmitigated good. Very near the end of his run-up-to-the-vote description, over a particular incident, Dominic Cummings remarks, “The media led themselves into a dead end and No10, defaulting to their instincts of steering by pundit, followed. … I knew they had screwed their own OODA loop.” but that remark would serve for a summary of much else in his explanation.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Sure. But if nearly everyone follows the mainstream media PC line, how is it possible that half the population voted against it? If you judged only by what you saw in the media, you’d think everyone would be in favour.

    I’m just suggesting that you can’t judge public opinion by what you see in the media. It’s deceptive. And in the face of dire consequences for expressing their opinions publicly, so are most people.

  • I’m just suggesting that you can’t judge public opinion by what you see in the media. It’s deceptive. And in the face of dire consequences for expressing their opinions publicly, so are most people. (Nullius in Verba, February 3, 2019 at 6:28 pm)

    I am certainly not disagreeing with that. As the comic piece I linked to remarks, in the privacy of the voting booth, people expressed their true opinions, all the more eagerly for having been unable to express them in public – and said actual opinions proved a great surprise to those who controlled the narrative. Because their control prevented them from knowing what those actual opinions were, it prevented them from arguing effectively against them. They had taken care to ensure they controlled the megaphone – and so had wasted that control arguing against the prejudiced, stupid opinions they imagined any who disagreed with them had.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>