I’m moving to Finland, to be with my people

Comments on my latest MercatorNet piece have been surprisingly supportive of the whole ‘white genocide’ idea.

For example, a reader calling itself “Time to think” writes:

Africa is still for the Africans and Asia is still for the Asians, but white countries are for everybody. Only white countries are going it, only white children are affected by it, it is indeed genocide. WHITE GENOCIDE. Go and look up the laws for the definition of genocide and you will see that this is true.
Even if the idea of white privilege were true, how does it justify genocide? And this is not only happening in Australia. It is happening in UK, France, Germany, USA and all other white countries. Just research Sweden. Every multicultural position places us in a world with no white people in it. In your opinion white identity is racist, you are only say that to whites, anti racist is code word for anti white.

To which I replied:

Genocide is:

“…any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life
calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

— Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 2”

Okay, I looked up the definition, still not impressed.

You say it’s happening in “all other white countries”. Is Finland not ‘white’? As of 2013 it was still 89.33% Finnish. What about Lithuania: it’s 84.2% Lithuanian as of 2011. Is that enough? How about Estonia: oh wait, it’s only 69.7% Estonian! Genocide! No, wait, 25.2% are Russians…
Maybe they complain about Estonian Genocide in Estonia? I wish I knew, but I don’t know how to say ‘genocide’ in Estonian, because despite being members of the one glorious white race, we are completely different ethnic and linguistic groups.

Perhaps you could come up with a new slogan other than ‘white genocide’ which on the one hand includes all the nations where you think white genocide is happening, but at the same time excludes those nations where it isn’t happening? Then it might be an accurate label rather than an incendiary polemic tool.

It is indeed time to think. Whenever you’re ready….

Head over and enjoy the careful and reasoned debate in its full glory:
http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/white_identity_in_a_multicultural_world

An intellectual journey: dodging the culture wars, thinking for myself

MercatorNet.com has just published my latest article on seeking truth instead of victory, and avoiding the pitfalls of a partisan approach:

It is vital that we likewise resist the temptation to let old answers take the place of live reason. If we succumb to this temptation we cease to exercise the virtues of wisdom and instead become mere partisans of a different stripe. We risk replacing naïve liberal narratives and attitudes with conservative or neo-conservative ones. The problem is not that the narratives are liberal or conservative, but that in either case we allow narratives to inform our thoughts instead of doing the hard work of thinking for ourselves. The truth is neither liberal nor conservative, and we should be wary of any tendency in ourselves to let the difficult and elegant pursuit of truth collapse into a partisan attitude.

http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/an_intellectual_journey_dodging_the_culture_wars_thinking_for_myself

Reason and reality – a talk

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to give a talk at the local Guild of St Luke, an association of Catholic Health Professionals. I was asked to speak as an ethicist, and it gave me the opportunity to revisit some of the most intriguing themes from my bioethics days.

For those who don’t know, Catholic health professionals work in a difficult environment these days. There is a growing push to remove conscientious objection rights from the medical profession, presenting people with an all-or-nothing dichotomy: violate your conscience or give up being a doctor. It’s good that such associations exist to give support and encouragement not only in a Catholic context, but in the broader domain of ethics and ‘best practice’.

Here’s the basic text of my 15 minute presentation:

At university I wasn’t impressed by ethics. I was more interested in mysticism: reading John of the Cross, Zen Buddhism and everything in between.

What I learned from studying ethics at uni was that we couldn’t rationally defend our moral beliefs because of the is-ought problem; the fact value distinction. You can prove a fact, an ‘is’, but you can’t prove an ‘ought’. As Nietzsche wrote: “there is no such thing as moral phenomena but only moral interpretation of phenomena.”

There might be no way to rationally demonstrate that I should do something, or should want to do something. But I still had a sense of the difference between good and evil. Even if I couldn’t prove it, or convince others, I could choose to follow this intuition. It wasn’t until after university, through my work at the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, that I came across a system of ethics which resolved the is-ought problem. It was through the work of a neo-Aristotelian named David Oderberg, that I learned it was in fact possible to rationally demonstrate and elucidate moral principles.

The key is the observation that human beings all desire happiness, though they may never agree on what happiness is. This desire for happiness is a fact, an ‘is’. We are hard-wired to pursue what we believe will make us happy. This observation is the bridge from ‘is’ to ‘ought’. It is a fact all human beings share, from which we can derive the kinds of moral statements that are otherwise philosophically so contentious. Given that you want happiness you ought to do the things that will bring about true happiness, and avoid things that undermine it. How do we identify these things? Through logic, observation, and experience. This is the substance of ethics.

Along the way I picked up other principles and approaches that complement this ethical system: most significantly, the philosophical method of argument from first principles.

You see, in university I was struck by scepticism [an attitude of doubt, or a belief that true knowledge is impossible] and solipsism [the idea that only my own mind can be sure to exist, from solus ipse ‘self alone’]: two approaches that emphasise the limitations of our knowledge. How can we be sure of anything? How do we know the world is not a dream or illusion? Can we trust our senses? Is experience reliable? If you take on board too much scepticism, there is very little you can say. Scepticism can lend itself to a kind of relativism – an approach where the standard of truth are hard to pin down and the boundaries of knowledge and speculation disappear.

Modern philosophers are, if nothing else, very good at analytical coherence. They may not know if you are right or wrong, they may not agree on what right and wrong even mean, or if they even exist; but they can at least tell if you are being consistent and coherent. In a world of philosophical disagreement, you must at least agree with yourself.

As with the fact-value distinction, it can be hard to nail even the most coherent philosophising to the ground. Hard to bridge the gap between complex theorising and simple reality. This is where first principles become so important, especially in the practical approach to ethics – the difficult task of working out what I ought to be doing.

The first principles include:

1) An object cannot both be and not be, at the same time and in the same way.

2) Every effect has a cause, and every cause has an effect.

3) A thing is what it is.

These are basic observations of reality, and form also the basic principles of reason.

1) The principle of non-contradiction: a statement cannot be true and false at the same time, and in the same way.

2) The principal of sufficient reason: everything must have a reason or cause.

3) The principle of identity: A is A, every thing is what it is.

Knowledge of these first principles in reason and reality shows that reason and reality are connected. Our reason, logic, is derived from and a reflection of the logic of reality itself.

This is truly profound. And the more I reflected on these principles the more coherent and dynamic and integral they became. In order to speak and think rationally, we must respect these principles. If we don’t then not only are we being irrational, we are being unrealistic.

Reality – coming from the Latin res – simply means ‘all things’; the rules of reality are the rules all things obey. Not the physical rules but the deeper ontological rules. Things do not simply come into and out of existence for no reason. Objects are not both square and round, or both big and small, in the same way and at the same time. All things obey these rules, and these are the same rules or principles we acknowledge is the basis of reason – our reason.

Is it a coincidence that Christian Scripture and the early Church chose the Greek term logos – the principle of order, the active reason pervading and animating the universe, the anima mundi – to describe the son of God, through whom all things were made, and whose life is the light of men?

For me this was the point at which philosophy and Christianity first intersected, a coming together of natural and revealed theology. In practical terms, and remembering ethics as practical reasoning, this understanding of the logos at work in reality and in our own minds is one of the most reassuring, comforting, and inspiring things one could hope to learn.

It means that no matter how difficult life may become, this universe, reality itself, is not absurd. The stones themselves cry out in the language of reason, declaring the first principles and thereby telling us something of the nature of our maker.

Reason is some part of the life and nature of God, the ipsum esse subsistens; and in our participation in reason, I think we are more truly taking part in the life our creator intended for us. Any philosopher will, I hope, attest to the joy and delight of elevated reason.

Arguing on the internet

I spend a fair bit of time in comments defending my articles, explaining my meaning in greater length, and thanking people for sincere and thoughtful contributions.

Actually, I spend a lot of time, but it’s rewarding.  I get to see what people think, challenge them, defend myself, learn from them, and sometimes engage in the most interesting conversations.

One of the lessons I learned early on was that there are plenty of people who appear to be after the truth, but who are in fact just looking for a fight.  They use the language of philosophy and argumentation, but really they are only interested in winning.

Thanks to a recent lecture on Plato’s dialogues, I learned that this approach is called ‘Eristic’.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

eristic, (from Greek eristikos, “fond of wrangling”), argumentation that makes successful disputation an end in itself rather than a means of approaching truth. Such argumentation reduces philosophical inquiry to a rhetorical exercise. Eristic argument is closely associated with the Sophists and was ridiculed by Plato in his dialogue Euthydemus. The term is often used more broadly to characterize arguments that rely on subtle but specious forms of reasoning.

I’ll leave you with an abridged version of my latest comment on my MercatorNet article

 

You shouldn’t apologise for leading someone to the truth.

The quality of internet debate is generally quite low, so you’ll have to forgive me for not taking you up on these points sooner, and allowing instead a more casual discourse. Personally, I find it embarrassing to be wrong, and so I try to read and reread carefully my own and others’ points before invoking logical fallacies and telling people explicitly that they’re probably wrong.

If I may offer some strategic advice: you’re at a disadvantage in picking an argument over a line made in passing in an article that was not explicitly the subject of the whole article, because the author (me) knows much better than the reader what he actually meant by that statement, and readers must either draw out a great deal more information, or risk making rash assumptions about the intended meaning.

After all, my initial line in the article was so ambiguous that picking it out as worthy of sustained debate suggests to me (as author) that either a) I’ve unwittingly committed some horrendous faux pas, or b) the commenter has an axe to grind, or is simply looking for a fight, such that he is willing to engage on the mere possibility that my line made in passing might uncover a hidden trove of bad thinking and hidden fallacies.

In tandem with this advice, might I suggest more generally that you practice the principle of charity in argumentative discourse? That is, err on the side of giving your interlocutor the benefit of the doubt by interpreting his arguments in their strongest possible light. Not only does this save oneself the embarrassment of being overly rash in error, it also trains oneself to find the strongest arguments in any context, and thereby strengthens one’s own position as well.

Otherwise, one might come across as a proponent of Eristic argument.

 

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

I recently posted the following comment in response to my article on gender equality at Mercatornet.

I’m reposting it here because the substance is generic: you can’t have a dialogue where only one person is willing to do the heavy lifting.

 

It’s unfortunate that an article on gender equality, violence against women, and the need for intelligent critique that doesn’t degrade into prejudice has met with comments arguing that the theme of ‘violence against women’ is some kind of bigoted campaign to stigmatise men, that the best available sources of information and methodologies can simply be disregarded as ‘lies’ in favour of ‘common sense’ and personal experience, or that violence against women is merely a subset of violence in general, for which women are somehow largely to blame.

I have spent some hours searching for valid sources of information and statistics in the hope that we could engage in rational discussion; I have even provided evidence such as statistics on the numbers of children in single-parent households, which my interlocutor claimed was being censored as some kind of conspiracy or plot by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Demonstration of concrete evidence such as the disparity in intimate partner homicide for men versus women was met with silence. To recap for other readers, the National Homicide Monitoring Program annual report states:
“Consistent with previous NHMP annual reports, females were overrepresented as victims in intimate partner homicide (n=89; 73% of intimate partner homicides),”
http://www.aic.gov.au/media_li…

Page 11 of the VicHealth report linked to in the first line of my article shows that in general, men and women are almost equally likely to suffer violence, yet the overwhelming majority of perpetrators are men:

“In 2012, 42% of persons (aged 18 years and over) had experienced
violence since the age of 15 years by a male perpetrator, compared with
12% who had experienced violence by a female perpetrator (ABS 2013b).
While
men are also more likely to be the victims of violence than are women
(ABS 2013b), the difference is not large. In 2012, 49% of men aged 18
years and over reported that they had experienced violence since the age
of 15, compared with 41% of women. Most of the violence experienced by
men is accounted for by physical assault, with men being less likely
than women to be subject to sexual violence. Since the age of 15, 4.5%
of men reported experiencing sexual violence, compared with 19% of women
(ABS 2013b).”

If your response to such data is to fear that this is part of some plot to stigmatise men, and hence you denigrate the integrity of the survey, the methodology, and the institutions behind them without valid evidence or a rationale on which to base such accusations, then there is little hope of rational dialogue.

If, on the other hand, you humbly submit to follow the evidence wherever it leads with a critical but inquiring mind, then you can say with some integrity “veritas lux mea”, which is a much more noble path.

Readers will have to forgive me for not following up with further research to engage with the various claims being made in comments. But the fact is that if people are genuinely looking for the truth they shouldn’t need me to do all the heavy lifting for them.