Friday, August 27, 2010

"Jan Bonham" One of my old pseudonyms after being banned.
Substantive due process in argument.
"Contretemps at Cato" Defending Will Wilkinson and Brink Lindsey.
Quoting Wilkinson (From the 4th link in the first line, here)
5. The Bell Curve by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein. This is the first intellectual book I ever reviewed in print. I gave it a mixed review in the Northern Iowan. (I think I had some misgivings about some of the race and IQ stuff, but I understood that it was not a book about race.) A sociology professor either sent me an email or wrote a letter to the editor (I don’t remember which!) condemning me for not condemning the book for being racist. This was my first taste of the excitement and frustration of participating in public intellectual life. I was impressed with Murray’s fortitude and grace in the face of what seemed to me to be outrageously unfair, truly scurrilous attacks. And it helped me understand the difference between trying hard to honestly think through tough social problems because you care and mouthing comfortable pieties in an effort to get credit for caring.
Henry Responds [back and forth]:
"to the contrary – the discussion of Herrnstein and Murray in Kieran’s post can reasonably be read as a quite eloquent and extremely pointed comment – “

"Henry, I didn’t say anyone here approved of the book. But you enjoy the white man’s luxury of magnanimity."

"? ? ? I’m presuming this is a slur of some class, but it’s honestly too cryptic for me to understand, let alone be insulted by …"
I wasn't perfectly clear, but I'm not sure I should have had to be. A black man wouldn't be as generous to Wilkinson as Henry and Kieran Healy are, and I doubt most Iraqis would have much to say to Lindsey. Is Henry saying it should be otherwise?

With Wilkinson as with Orin Kerr, Farrell make an argument for personal civility as morality. That's valid to a point: the point where due process undermines moral substance. And that point is a one of contention: it only exists as a floating place for argument, landing temporarily at one point or another. The linked post is an example.
Agree or disagree with Henry, his stance/bias/point of view is fundamentally conservative. And he doesn't see, or can't imagine, any point other than his own. To him, implicitly if not always explicitly, his view is not a "perspective" originating from a point in space, but a consciousness spread out over every inch of an open field, as a disembodied presence. [We've been here before] He argues one side -for sincerity and civility- without seeing the other. He condescends to simple anger. But am I ready to assume that Lindsey feels the full weight of the the deaths of Iraqis on his conscience? That Wilkinson is fully cognizant of the place of racism in American culture? That any of them understand the Palestinian reality? And to understand the "the Palestinian reality" is to understand a subjective reality, like his own. Subjectivity is a given. But discounting his own he is able to discount others'.

Henry argues about ideas, that's true for all of them; but you have to intuit the relation of ideas to bodies. Late in the discussion of Greenwald and Kerr he seems to begin to understand
Orin – as Belle suggests in the post I linked, one can create a hypothetical in which the sound utilitarian thing to do is to torture an innocent three year old to death. Does this tell us anything useful about whether it is right or wrong to torture three year olds to death? Are we merely negotiating over the circumstances under which torturing three year olds is OK and not OK...?
But they all exhibit a kind of blindness more offensive than simple racism. It's the moral cowardice of a certain kind of intellectual: the innocence of childhood maintained into adulthood.

Farrell believes while claiming not to: that's the lie. He defends Wilkinson and Lindsey because he likes them, because they have something in common; the defense of principle is secondary. He's acting out of preference without being able to admit it. He exhibits a youthful lack of irony, and more importantly for an intellectual he doesn't understand why irony is necessary.
Doing these cases,” he wrote, “I began to find myself in a dangerous situation as an advocate. I came to believe in the truth of what I was saying. I was no longer entirely what my professional duties demanded, the old taxi on the rank waiting for the client to open the door and give his instruction, prepared to drive off in any direction, with the disbelief suspended."
Naturalist epistemology, language without irony [without politics], in imitation [as allegory] of the hard or formal sciences, as reason not without but in denial of subjectivity [the view of the subject], ends in failure.

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