Friday, June 9, 2017

The Disappearance of Argument

From Church Pop:
Accordingly, “truth” is construed as a function of the will of the individual. I determine the meaning of my life, and you determine the meaning of yours; I decide my gender and you decide yours—and therefore the best we can do together is tolerate one another’s choices. But when there is no truth, there can be no argument, for argument depends upon a shared appeal to certain epistemic and ethical values.

If I might propose an analogy, it’s something like the common rules that make a game possible. Precisely because the players all agree to certain strictures and delimitations, real play can ensue. If every participant is making up the rules as he goes along and according to his whim, the game promptly evanesces. Indeed, if we continue with this analogy, the game, in fact, doesn’t simply disappear; it devolves into bickering and finally into violence, since the players have no other recourse for the adjudication of their disputes. Now we can see why it is a very short step indeed from epistemic and moral relativism in the classroom to violence on the quad. Since I can’t argue with my opponent, I can only silence him, de-humanize him, shut him down.

The valorization of will over intellect is described by the technical term “voluntarism,” and the roots of this ideology are tangled indeed. Jean-Paul Sartre and Michel Foucault were advocates of it in the twentieth century, and they both found their inspiration in the nineteenth-century German theoretician, Friedrich Nietzsche.

Nietzsche’s Ubermensch (Superman) stood blithely beyond the conventional categories of good and evil and determined the meaning of his life through his limitless will to power. The problem, of course, is what happens when two Supermen clash, when two limitless wills collide. The only path forward, Nietzsche correctly intuited, would be warfare—and let the strongest survive. What should be clear to everyone is that this has remained anything but high theorizing, that in fact Nietzsche’s vision now dances in the heads of most young people in our society today. (Read more.)

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