Monday, August 22, 2005

Is diversity self-refuting?-simplified

A simpler way of stating the paradoxical nature of all postmodernist claims is "The truth is, there is no truth!" Obviously self-contradictory and illogical, which would explain why diversiphiles, and pomos in general, are so hard to argue with.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Is diversity self-refuting?

“We could argue, therefore, that Mr. Reichert’s valorization of individuality is a product of his own culture.”

This line from the diversity writing curriculum is the rhetorical equivalent of a tell in poker. They’ve tipped their hand. This one sentence sent my on a flurry of reading the last month and a half of summer. It's been revealed: diversity is about cultural relativism.

Of course this was to be expected, but the above sentence represents a near blatant admission. The grounds of the debate have shifted, or at least momentarily solidified (attacking diversity is usually like punching a bowl of pudding—there’s just no substance there). Much flows from this, and a recourse to relativism is usually a sign that one has lost the debate (“okay, maybe facts and logic are on your side, but, really, who is to say what’s right or wrong anyways?”)

This relativism underlies the faddish academic doggerel of postmodernism, of which diversity is just one manifestation. But I find postmodernism, and therefore diversity, to be largely self-refuting, when they accept relativism yet at the same time advance some framework. Here is the way I see it:

1) Postmodernism posits that there is no absolute truth.

2) The statement that there is no absolute truth is itself an absolute truth.

3) Therefore statement one is contradictory; there must be absolute truth by admission of postmodernists.

This bothers me a little. It just seems so incredibly bizarre that the statement “there is no absolute truth” can lead, seemingly logically, to the conclusion that there MUST be absolute truth. Maybe I’m mistaken in saying that statement one (“there is no absolute truth”) is itself an absolute truth.

But how can it be otherwise? Surely when postmodernists say “there is no absolute truth” they mean this absolutely, and they mean it to be the truth? If not, if the statement "there is no absolute truth" is untrue or not absolute, then lo! there must be truth out there!

Is postmodernism, and therefore diversity, self-refuting at such a basic and simple level?

Maybe pomos are saying that this isn’t so much a truth, as it is a metatruth, a truth about truths. But this just seems to make the truth all the more absolute, and, besides, pomos are resolute in their disbelief in metaphysics in general.

This argument reminds me of the ontological argument for the existence of God, which is about the most brain-twistingly simple argument in existence. This argument runs as follows:

1) If there were a God, he would be that thing of which no greater thing can be thought.
2) It is possible for us to think of that which no greater thing can be thought.
3) But, the greatest thing which can be thought must also exist, because it wouldn’t be the greatest thing if it didn’t exist.
4) God exists.

The argument is elegantly simple, but my quick rehash of it here doesn’t do it justice. I know it probably doesn’t seem too plausible sitting before you now, but trust me: my philosophy professor a couple of years back presented this to our class, and the best efforts of the resident atheists were futile in touching it. [If interested further, check out St. Anselm’s “Proslogion.”]

The similarity in these two arguments is the seeming absurdity that we can infer the existence of something (God or truth) merely because we can think about them, or make statements about them. As I said, it’s brain-twistingly simple, yet how can it not bother you a little? Is it all really that easy? And, if so, then why the infatuation with postmodernism?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Barone on multiculturalism

Michael Barone has an interesting column up on multiculturalism. In the wake of the British 7/7 and 7/22 bombings, many have begun to question the heretofore largely unquestioned tolerance for all cultures mandated by multiculturalism. Thousands of unassimilated Muslim Britons, meshed into a culture of ascetic Islamism leagues apart from mainstream Britain, are now seen as posing a major threat, not as the desired fruit of some multicultural utopia.

Barone cuts to the pith on multiculturalism:
Multiculturalism is based on the lie that all cultures are morally equal. In practice, that soon degenerates to: All cultures all morally equal, except ours, which is worse. But all cultures are not equal in respecting representative government, guaranteed liberties, and the rule of law. And those things arose not simultaneously and in all cultures but in certain specific times and places--mostly in Britain and America but also in other parts of Europe.

But this is not likely to convince the committed multiculty. These people acknowledge that liberties and the rule of law are artificats of the Western cultural tradition; they just deny that these things are necessary. Such a nihilistic attitude is beyond argument, because argument presupposes the possibility of agreement, an outcome that is impossible to an absolute value relativist.

This was the gut response that many had to my column. They simply claimed that individuality was a Western idea, and so, presumably, valid only for Westerners. There is no way to argue with this; it is the rhetorical equivalent of taking your basketball and going home.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Winning hearts and minds

It’s a common meme among lefties that the war on terror is inflaming Muslim populaces. And, certainly this is true for a certain extreme subset of the population, just as it is true that if you crack down on the mob, you’re likely to piss of mob members and their family. Does this mean you shouldn’t crack down on the mob, especially as it will cause an immediate upturn in the level of violence as the mob fights back? Methinks not.

But, overall, while the US’s efforts in the war on terror have caused a drastic fall in support from beret-wearers the world over, a new poll reveals that, among Muslim populations, support for suicide bombings and Osama bin Laden has fallen and large majorities in those Muslim countries surveyed indicate that they believe democracy could work in their country.

Don't sweat it

I've been a long-time defender of sweatshops. Simply put, if a person decides, of their own free will, to work in a sweatshop, then who am I to say they can't? The alternatives to working in a sweatshop are often poverty and hunger. Of course, it would be great if sweatshops had higher wages and better conditions--but if we mandate these, the sweatshop will a) higher less people or b) move to another country.

The Christian Science Monitor has an opinion column detailing the results of a recent study on sweatshops in foreign countries:
The apparel industry, which is often accused of unsafe working conditions and poor wages, actually pays its foreign workers well enough for them to rise above the poverty in their countries. While more than half of the population in most of the countries we studied lived on less than $2 per day, in 90 percent of the countries, working a 10-hour day in the apparel industry would lift a worker above - often far above - that standard. For example, in Honduras, the site of the infamous Kathy Lee Gifford sweatshop scandal, the average apparel worker earns $13.10 per day, yet 44 percent of the country's population lives on less than $2 per day.