Friday, March 19, 2004

Replies to replies to replies

In response to Sock Thief's latest offering:

  1. I think it is important to note that what Pinker is criticising isn't liberalism - and he doesn't call it that. Sock Thief calls it that. Pinker talks about relativism, social constructivism, science studies, cultural studies, critical theory, postmodernism, and deconstructionism. While these strands of thought are common on the left, particularly in academia, they're not liberalism, and they are not any strand of liberal thought. Unfortunately, due to his conflation of the liberal, authoritarian, and postmodern tendencies on the left, Sock Thief talks as if they are.
  2. "Liberals are undemocratic because, rather than respecting other people's views, they see them as dupes suffering from 'false consciousness' or a similar ailment" is not a direct quote from anyone; it's an attempt to elucidate the underlying meaning behind Sock Thief's claims that "liberals believe that anyone with a different opinion is stupid" and that this is illiberal. If this is not what he means - if for example, he does not think that liberals see people as dupes, or as suffering from "false consciousness", or that either undermines democracy in liberal eyes, he is more than welcome to say so.
  3. The thrust of my piece is to show that "false consciousness" and deception are not problems for liberals. It is directed at people, like Sock Thief, who think that they are or might be. It is not a theory on how people are influenced (though I think that they can be, and in some cases, are), but a theory on whether such influence matters. And the answer, for liberals, is that it doesn't.

Finally, just to put the issue of "respecting other's views" to rest, I'll clarify something I was aiming at last night:

Liberalism does not mean withholding criticism, judgement, or moral opprobrium. All it means is withholding restraint.

Liberals can think that other people's interests are selfish, that the moral axioms they use to reach their conclusions are reprehensible, and that the facts they use in the process or seek to persuade others with are false, because none of this implies that the decision may be usurped. Autonomy is sacrosanct (subject to Mill's Law), even for stupid, selfish wankers.