Friday, July 10, 2020
Thursday, July 9, 2020
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Consider, for instance, an opinion piece from the New York Times titled: "Confronting Philosophy's Anti-Semitism." The piece discusses Hume, Voltaire, and Kant (and briefly mentions Hegel, Schopenhauer, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein) but says nothing about Marx.
Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew.What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our time.An organization of society which would abolish the preconditions for huckstering, and therefore the possibility of huckstering, would make the Jew impossible. His religious consciousness would be dissipated like a thin haze in the real, vital air of society. On the other hand, if the Jew recognizes that this practical nature of his is futile and works to abolish it, he extricates himself from his previous development and works for human emancipation as such and turns against the supreme practical expression of human self-estrangement.We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time, an element which through historical development – to which in this harmful respect the Jews have zealously contributed – has been brought to its present high level, at which it must necessarily begin to disintegrate.In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.
Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man – and turns them into commodities. Money is the universal self-established value of all things. It has, therefore, robbed the whole world – both the world of men and nature – of its specific value. Money is the estranged essence of man’s work and man’s existence, and this alien essence dominates him, and he worships it. The god of the Jews has become secularized and become the god of the world. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew.Marx's bigotry is not restricted to antisemitism either. He accused the Chinese of "hereditary stupidity." He also extensively praised racist Pierre Tremaux's amateur work on evolution. In a letter to Engels, Marx writes,
In its historical and political applications far more significant and pregnant than Darwin. For certain questions, such as nationality, etc., only here has a basis in nature been found. E.g., he corrects the Pole Duchinski, whose version of the geological differences between Russia and the Western Slav lands he does incidentally confirm, by saying not that the Russians are Tartars rather than Slavs, etc., as the latter believes, but that on the surface-formation predominant in Russia the Slav has been tartarised and mongolised; likewise (he spent a long time in Africa) he shows that the common negro type is only a degeneration of a far higher one.Engels himself lauded the "energetic Yankees" who "seized" California "from the lazy Mexicans who did not know what to do with it" in the Mexican-American war. He writes of the "filth" and "savagery" of the Irish here. And this is not nearly an exhaustive account. A more detailed look at the racism of Marx and Engels, including their repeated use of vile racial slurs, can be found here.
The comparative infrequency with which philosophers grapple with Marx's bigotry is startling. (I'll note in passing that the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on Marx and "On the Jewish Question" makes no mention of the essay's antisemitism). Not only is Marx's racism glaring and pervasive, his work continues to exert a profound influence on academia. The Communist Manifesto is one of the three most assigned texts at American colleges. Nearly 18% of social scientists identify as Marxists. For all of these reasons, no serious reckoning with the racist history of philosophy can take place without confronting the case of Marx.
...many people don't see the downside of abusing moral talk. They act as if moral talk is always admirable (at least when their side does it). For these people, moral talk is magic. Invoking sacred words--justice, dignity, rights, equality, or honor, tradition, faith, and family--magically transforms your nasty, abusive, selfish behavior into something heroic and praiseworthy. Want to be cruel to people you don't like and have your like-minded peers congratulate you? Wrap your behavior in high-flying moral language. Voila! Brave, Admirable, Speaking Truth to Power.
But moral talk is not magic. We do not have free rein to treat others badly simply because we are invoking sacred words, or because we are showing in our own way that we care. Being morally outspoken is not in itself an achievement. [Emphasis added]
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
1. Q: Should people say bad things, (e.g. demeaning, inegalitarian, or mean comments)?
2. Q: If people shouldn’t say bad things, then should saying bad things be illegal?
A: No. Most things that are bad shouldn’t be illegal.
3. Q: But maybe if someone says a bad thing outside of work, they should still get fired from their jobs?
A: Not usually. Often the same reasons against making something illegal are also reasons against imposing other sanctions on people.
4. Q: Ok but what if a boss fires someone for saying a bad thing? If that’s wrong, then shouldn’t what the boss did be illegal?
A: No (see question #2).
5. Q: What if instead of people getting fired or facing legal penalties, everyone just yells at the person who said the bad thing?
A: It depends. Sometimes this is a good idea. Sometimes, yelling at people in this way amounts to saying a bad thing (see question #1).
6. Q. So basically, you’re saying that people can’t say bad things but they have to put up with other people saying bad things and not facing legal penalties or getting fired. And it’s only sometimes ok to yell at people who said bad things? It sounds like you’re saying that people have to put up with a lot of stuff they disapprove of in order to avoid inappropriately sanctioning or punishing someone. What kind of view is that?!
Monday, July 6, 2020
The Marc Sanders Foundation recently hosted a hosted a Zoom Panel Discussion on Protesting Police and Policing Protests featuring Ekow Yankah, Michele Moody-Adams, Brandon del Pozo, and Jason Brennan, moderated by Barry Lam and Simone Gubler. The event was co-sponsored by the The Philosophy, Politics and Economics Society, and Hi-Phi Nation.
You can watch the video here: https://marcsandersfoundation.org/protesting-police-and-policing-protest/
Sunday, July 5, 2020
Some have answered yes. To them, sometimes innocent persons must bear the cost of rectifying injustice, especially if they suffer harm to their property and not to their life or limb. As the saying goes, to make an omelet you must break some eggs.
I think this view is questionable. To see why, consider an analytical framework used to evaluate collateral destruction in war: the doctrine of double effect (DDE). A major problem with an otherwise justified war is that the just warrior is bound to harm innocent persons. This may be enough to condemn war altogether and be a pacifist, as some have done. But those who believe that some wars are justified have tried to distinguish between direct and oblique harm in pursuit of the just cause. Direct harm to innocents is almost never justified, while oblique harm to innocents may sometimes be justified. The DDE is complex and there are many versions in the literature, but reduced to its bare bones it claims the following:
An act with two effects, one good, one evil, may be performed (1) if the evil effect is not directly intended but merely foreseen, and (2) if the good achieved by the good effect is significant enough to permit the evil of the evil effect to come to pass.
The DDE, then, poses an intent condition and a proportionality condition. These are each necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for the permissibility of acts that harm innocent persons in the pursuit of a just cause.
Now let’s apply the DDE to violent protests against racial injustice. To justify harm to innocents, the protesters must not directly intend that harm, even as a means to end racial injustice elsewhere. The harm to bystanders can only be justified as a collateral effect of the protesting actions. This difference can be illustrated in two scenarios.
In the first scenario, protesters confront the police. The protesters, let’s assume, are justified in using proportionate violence against the police, perhaps by throwing stones at them. In the course of this confrontation, the property of neighbors is damaged, as they are caught in the middle of the riot. This harm complies with the DDE. The protesters did not intend to harm the neighbors (intent condition), and the cause pursued, ending racial injustice, is important enough to justify such collateral damage (proportionality condition). While the protesters could foresee that harm, they didn’t centrally want it, it was nothing to their intent.
In the second scenario, protesters, after having confronted the police, marched through the neighborhood burning the residents’ property. This harm violates the DDE because it does not meet the intent condition. Protesters directly intended to burn those buildings as a way to demonstrate against racial injustice. The harm is not collateral harm but direct harm. This is true even if the action meets the proportionality condition. It may be that the end of racial injustice is important enough to allow the destruction of some property. But it must be done right, with the right intent. Protesters willed the burning of property; that harm was central to their intent.
Someone may retort: “Racial injustice is systemic, so no one, and especially not property owners, can claim to be an innocent party. These persons benefit from a racist system, so burning their property is a direct action against culpable persons.” This reply is unconvincing. It justifies any act of violence against anyone who happens to live in a community saddled with the social problem in question (here, racial injustice.) Such reasoning would have justified the 1971 Munich massacre and similar acts of terrorism against innocents. Whatever the usefulness of the idea of systemic racism in other contexts, it cannot be used to justify directly harming third parties in this way. (By the way, the reply illustrates conceptual difficulties of the idea of systemic properties, but that is a matter for another post.)