Thursday, April 18, 2013

We Lost the Thing?

One of the graces of aging is the ability, in seeing the same thing over and over again, to reevaluate things. Now you can go ahead and rethink philosophy and works of art, but what I find increasingly fascinating is reevaluating various forms of unreason. More specifically, it's fascinating when a smart person chooses not to apply reason. Now sure, you can revisit and freshly examine things like art and philosophy, but as I get older it is not such idealized species of inquiry which reveal man, but his insanity, his in-sanitas.

Please note I'm not talking about when people step outside their area of expertise, but rather when they forego simple formal logic and even trivial common sense.

The latest of these inquiries into concerted logical vacuity came yesterday when I saw the superfluity of leftwing responses to the recent legislation which had something to do with guns. I say "something to do with" because, not pretending to know the motives of legislators and with the actual effects of legislation seldom matching their titles, I don't want to give any bill any benefit of my considerable doubt.

Anyway, I don't want to talk about the purely ridiculous responses. I don't want to castigate people for defending a bill they didn't read addressing a topic they didn't understand. Nor do I wish to address points of inconsistency, such the slumbrous quotidian indifference from which a select species of democratic citizen wakens on occasion, his maladroit limbs righteously akimbo. What fascinates me is why some intelligent people would refuse to think about the bill and its effects and choose blindly to storm the barricades for it.

My conclusion is that the bill became part of a "thing," a cause, the cause of "gun control," and anything which purports to support the cause must be supported. Never mind the long, circuitous, vale-ridden path from bill to cause to policy to premise. Support

You see if someone wants to stop violent crime, he makes observations, records data, analyzes it, makes conclusions, and acts. Look at this video from Stefan Molyneux's as an example. It undoubtedly took a lot of research and reasoning. Regardless of whether you agree, his approach is reasoned. If you oppose aggression then you'll use reason to find an end to it, because only reason will get you that end.

Yet if you oppose aggression and use a series of unquestioned and unproven assumptions, unless you believe unquestioned and unproven assumptions produce predictable and good results, i.e. you are unreasonable, you're not serious about getting the job done. You've either foregone reason in this instance or are generally unreasonable. Since I think many people possess and use some reason, I believe the former more probable. So why would one forego reason?

Identity, and identity seldom mingles with reason. Some people don't care so much about a cause as being the kind of person who supports the cause. They may or may not believe in the cause, but their primary affinity for it is the way it completes their character.

Now I don't mean this entirely as a criticism and to illustrate that point I'll use a different example. Take someone who values liberty. He loves liberty, but he doesn't do anything to promote it. It's not a bad thing that he values it "internally," so to speak, but he might not care so much about it existing as he does about believing it is good. He's more concerned with his own internal state than the instantiation of the principle. Again, this is not wholly a bad thing but it must be distinguished from actually wanting to make something.

The problem with "causes" then, is that they prey on this ultimately self-centered interest in ideas by trying to implement the ideas, and in doing so they unite people with the same affinity. This validates the virtue of the affinity, which is all the individual cares about. Such is why many people don't care that a proposal does what it says it will. After all, if they were really in it for the idea itself, they'd be doing it already.

Should we, then, single out the progressive for scorn? Typically. For whereas the collectivist pull of political organization is fulfilled in the conservative with religion and/or tempered by his skepticism for all activity, and the same is tempered in the libertarian by a lust for liberty, the progressive has no strong counterbalance to grand-scheming. Hence the current president. It's not so much that progressives are persuaded by his speeches, the oratorical equivalents of Morning Train, so much that they speak the same level of earnest cliché. It matters not whether the ideas are specific, reasoned, moral, or possible to follow, but that they are held.

In such a light, this week's knee-jerk reactions seem, well, insane.

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