Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Not just perspective

Writing in the Investor’s Business Daily, Tom Krannawitter attacks both Ward Churchill (the former professor) and his public antagonist David Horowitz. He claims both are multiculturalists.

Discussions - 13 Comments

I don't see him claim that Horowitz is a multiculturalist; rather, he suggests that DH is lazy, or that his response to Churchill is incomplete, lacking.

But, I hope that readers on NLT are not prepared to accept this drivel!

"Celebrating foreign cultures and rejecting America are two sides of the same multicultural coin; it is the way American multiculturalists demonstrate their own multicultural sophistication to each other. From their perspective, the most anti-American Americans are the most educated Americans."

This exercise in false association progresses from one lie to the next: First, if one is a true relativist, then there is no legitimate basis for hating any culture, including one's own. Second, if American higher education is a liberal bastion of multicultural brain-washing, then the most educated Americans must be the most liberal, multicultural ones!

This guy is an idiot.

Dear Fung:

You conclude with two points. First, you write, "if one is a true relativist, then there is no legitimate basis for hating any culture, including one's own." That is true. That is also a mighty big "if." My point is that the multiculturalists are not "true relativists," even though they preach a doctrine of relativism. They contradict themselves (as does everyone who preaches relativism). This is proved by the fact that they think there is nothing relativistic about their own theory of multiculturalism, which they insist is true.

Second, you write, "if American higher education is a liberal bastion of multicultural brain-washing, then the most educated Americans must be the most liberal, multicultural ones!" Exactly my point. Americans who are the most liberal multiculturalists are the ones with the most advanced training in our colleges and universities, and vice versa.

It seems strange that you would dissmiss me as an "idiot" when in fact you seem to agree with me on much. But these things are sometimes difficult to admit.

-Tom Krannawitter

Mr. Krannawitter-

I don't think you understand multiculturalism very well. First of all, not all multiculturalists are radical relativists. Many tend more to a universalist perspective, suggesting that culture is an important influence on the variability of expressions of certain universals. For instance, "GAMES" are probably universal across all cultures, though chess has little in common with tiddly winks. AGGRESSION is also probably a cultural universal, though "shock and awe" doesn't look much like most Aboriginal inter-tribal conflict.

Still, since most multiculturalists tend to use scientific methods, it is not very common (despite your claim) to hear them referring to aggression as "true," or to their own perspectives as "true."

Second, adapting a relativist stance does not make a culturally or socially accepted belief "false." It is merely to recognize the ultimate constructionist nature of beliefs. And to identify with a particular set of beliefs does not have to make a relativist hypocritical.

For instance, you and I both know that a five-dollar bill is not really worth five one-dollar bills, but we can, and should act as though that is true. In a similar way, as an American relativist, there is no inherent problem in a statement suggesting that the American government has strayed from its founding principles, or that people have a right to live their lives.

In order to operate within a culture, it is usually best to adapt one of the recognized systems of value from within that culture. Luckily, America recognizes more than one way to "be" an American. Failure to recognize THAT makes one an Absolutist.

Finally, you wrote:

"From their perspective, the most anti-American Americans are the most educated Americans." This suggests that American multiculturalists find themselves to be anti-American. I think that is far from the truth.

Really finally: I would not have called you an idiot if I had known that you were reading this. I should not have insulted you, personally, and I apologize. I still don't like what you wrote, though!

Dr. Krannawitter wrote:

This is proved by the fact that they think there is nothing relativistic about their own theory of multiculturalism, which they insist is true.

No serious scholar believes in that kind of school-boy relativism. Their truth is subjective, as they believe all truth is. It seems to me that it can be quite difficult to prove that one can make "objective" claims, escaping their own subjective experiences and life. It's almost by definition that some claim all truth can only be found in a subjective/relative way.

In other words, to claim that a relativist is promoting relativism as objective truth is the same as claiming that my brown sweater participates in the Platonic form of "red" by not being red. Not-red cannot be a kind of red, just like relativism cannot be some kind of an objective truth.

It sure would be nice to leap out of myself and catch the big, abstract truth in the sky, though. I try sometimes, but it usually just results in my being silly.

If you want to read real, substantial "relativism" (and I use that term loosely), you should read some Kierkegaard. If you've already read Kierkegaard, then you no doubt understand that not all "thoughtful" multiculturalists (or relativists) believe that they contradict themselves (and have very good reasons for thinking in such a way).

I agree that Horowitz is lazy and his most recent book ridiculous. Ward Churchill is also lazy and ridiculous and not worth our attention. I also agree that the argument that the doctrine of relativism contradicts itself because it itself is a claim for nonrelativistic truth is mighty tired and not something that the relativists themselves haven't thought of and dealt with in various ways. It is true enough that most multiculturalists are really liberal egalitarians. But philosophers (see Socrates' activity at the very beginning of the REPUBLIC) have a strong multicultural tendency too.

I am pretty sure I am a radical relativist. But I can't be sure of this because I can't be sure of what you mean by the term. Frankly I think Hume and Kant were right in discussing Metaphysical problems. I also think AJ Ayer was correct. In other words all truth claims seek to establish themselves as nonrelativistic when the only thing possible is relativistic truth, because Hume's fork describes the actual reality to the T... Now I don't think that Multiculturalism has to follow from this. I think it follows from this because intellectuals take a non-consequentialist perspective on ethics(A dismisal of the inescapable truth behind Kant to his quick fix ethical solution.) In point of fact for the true relativist the only thing left is consequences... If I have a set of consequences that I desire above another set of consequences then there will be a culture that is superior at achieving these consequences. Why would I or how could I justify my preferences for a set of consequences if such a thing is impossible? The only answer is the one given by Ayer...some play chess others play checkers, and as I say some people play poker(which is one of the few games not between by computer opponents) Pragmatically I think Capitalism in some form or another has been hailed for the creation of wealth(Marx didn't even challenge this) Empirically the United States is superior to other countries on many different levels. The highly educated aren't brought together by relativism so much as they are brought together from a dislike of a culture focused on ends...ends that they do not attach moral primacy to.

the idea that intellectuals at Harvard and Yale et not hold to very complex ethical constructions is I believe not true. The Multiculturalist are simply looking to interject bits and pieces of other cultures into the american culture with the hope that this yeast will yield the type of bread they is all about crafting the type of society that praises and blames what they believe deserves praise and blame.

In other words if Relativism is the Metaphysical truth...then multiculturalism is the political tool yielded with the hope of effecting a coup d'etat upon dominant ontologies. But relativism can still be and still is a metaphysical truth independent of the desired means used by aspiring socractic law givers to remake society.

Also just because skepticism of the Humean variety gives us relativism with regard to the impossibility of providing infalliably rational metaphysical justifications for any given set of prefferences does not mean that a rational discussion cannot occur, nor in my opinion does it lead to the conclusion agreed upon by both Fung and Krannawitter, namely that a true relativist cannot prefer one outcome to the other. All we can do is explain why we believe what we believe...why we prefer what we prefer.

When Fung says that "if one is a true relativist, then there is no legitimate basis for hating any culture." He is interjecting a supposed "legitimate basis" that the relativist himself would disavow. Because the relativists is ultimately saying there is no possibility within metaphysics for establishing absolutely what counts as a legitimate basis in the first place.

So the true relativist is free to discuss why he loves or hates a particular culture on the basis of that which he holds to be a legitimate reason. And the true questions in philosophy are why do we believe what we believe? Upon what grounds(to what end?) do we really believe what we believe?

Person X says I believe this because my Horoscope told me so...person Y says I believe this because I did an extensive study...Person Z says I believe this because I asked someone who has a lot of success/clout in the field...and these particular beliefs have particular consequences...and if people wish to have the best consequences they will seek out the best grounds for belief.

According to Hume not all grounds for belief are equal because some people have sharper minds and a more refined taste...they are more keen...they are prudent in the coup d'oeil sense. The grounds of belief ultimately rests in the judgement of the individual, and the individual can give his judgement and you can either approve or disaprove of it...and give counter reasons...and perhaps come to an agreement on what should be the proper "legitimate" grounds to settle the dispute...see On Taste (in Essays Moral political and Literary)

Hume, and myself would agree with this thought by Fung: "Second, adapting a relativist stance does not make a culturally or socially accepted belief "false." It is merely to recognize the ultimate constructionist nature of beliefs. And to identify with a particular set of beliefs does not have to make a relativist hypocritical."

Indeed if someone happens to like horse urine and believe in Astrology...and I ask him why and he says because it tastes good and it works for me then I may not be able to prove that it doesn't taste good to him, or that Astrology doesn't really work...but at the same time I don't have disprove him on his grounds in order to structure my life around different principles.

What do you mean by Horowitz is "lazy?"

Horowitz and Front Page Mag are a very mixed bag, IMO. First of all, Horowitz has declared himself a "John F. Kennedy liberal." I wish more conservatives would declare themselves Patrick Henry conservatives, but such is the sorry state of modern conservatism.

Horowitz and FPM have done a good job of challenging Proposition Nation thinking, and for that they deserve some praise. However, their goal here is not some sort of organic, decentralized paleo society. It is a way they use to justify restricting Muslim immigration. And the final outcome they seek is a sort of crude, semi-authoritarian Nationalism. Certainly not a decentralized localism.

Horowitz acts like he is a brave challenger of PC orthodoxy on issues where it is easy to do so, reparations for example. But he never really transgresses PC orthodoxy. He and FPM have called paleos the R word.

It seems to me that he is attempting to define the bounds of what is acceptable on the right. As far as he goes (no reparations, no quotas) but no further. He has published simplistic and scurrilous articles connecting the anti-war "far" right to Nazis and leftists. He has slandered Paul Craig Roberts by name. He also went after others on what he deems the "far" right by name (not all technically paleos).

In service of his Nationalism, he is a big defender of Lincoln and is very critical of the new anti-Lincoln voices.

His focus on academia bothers me somewhat. While he is correct that most of the people he identifies are leftist fools, I am not sure that in a world where Horowitz approved the faculty that an anti-Lincoln (anti-Nationalist) scholar like DiLorenzo or Thomas Woods would escape his ire.

At the risk of being called all sorts of bad names, it is important to state the obvious. His ire toward both the "far left" and the "far right" is driven at least in part by his sympathy for Israel. It makes his policies semi-incoherent, but they are not really incoherent if you keep in mind that the final outcome he is seeking is a militaristic, semi-authoritarian, Nationalistic state, not conservatism historically understood. (He is very much like Savage in this way.)

I don't think he is "lazy." In fact I think he is pretty clever in that he knows what he is about. I do think he is ruthless and intolerant.

To Dan P.

Just as I object to the proposition that a "true relativist would have no legitimate basis for hating any culture, including one's own." So do I object to the proposition that one would have to be a "Statist" or in the service of "Nationalism" to defend Lincoln. Moreover I don't see why a Patrick Henry Conservative couldn't find aspects of Lincoln worthy of praise.

Following Hume's relativism/epistemology I see no metaphysical reason to structure ousia such that the association of ideas would lend one to such an artificial construction of that which is most vital. I can conceive a gold mountain, and I can conceive a purple monkey, likewise I can conceive of a Lincoln in the service to Statism, or a Lincoln in the service to Liberty. My ability to conceive it in no way makes it an absolute truth, or even an actual impression.

You say that Horowitz is trying to define the bounds of what is acceptable on the right...indeed! One of the few Universal truths is that everyone with any Law Giving aspirations is trying to define the bounds of acceptability. But in the countless attempts to define the bounds of acceptability or the "legitimate basis" few do better than to simply associate Gold and Calf and declare it a God. But associating ideas at random and declaring them truth makes for poor drinking water and a waste of Gold. When David Hume came down from the Mountain he said "I commit your constructions to the flame, for they can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion."

Comment 8 is convoluted...I fell in love with my lawgiver theme. Lincoln himself says it all much simpler:

A farmer back home was sitting on his front porch," Lincoln said, "when suddenly his six-year-old son came running from the barn saying, 'Father, Father, the hired man is in the hayloft with Big Sister. The hired man is pulling down his pants and Big Sister is lifting up her skirts, and I fear they are going to pee on the hay.' 'Son,' said the farmer calmly. 'You have all the facts right but you have reached the wrong conclusion.'"

I would love to hear Dr. Krannawitter's views on Kant and Hume as they apply to this subject. The Humean relativist for example is simply accusing Kant and all other law givers of impossing on experience potentially unjustifiable apriori conditions. And that furthermore this is not relegated only to the esotoric field of Enlightenment philosophy. All great thinkers in the haste to make sense of the world and lay down the grounds for blame and praise, have knowingly errected arbitrary distinctions that cannot be justified and are thus prejudice. Now it does not follow that all arbitrary assumptions are equal...and indeed some assumptions are quite necessary and fruitfull, but this does not obliterate the tension between Noumena and Phenomena. In point of fact the split between Noumena and Phenomena, or our understanding of a thing and the thing itself is the driving force in the world of philosophy both political and moral. Thus when we study thinkers we are studying how they bridge the gap...when we study ethicists we are studying how they move from the positive to the normative. We don't think that the answer as to how it can be done can be justified philosophically...therefore we say that all judgements are prejudices contingent upon the anticedent conditions that were ultimately assumed...but it in no way follows from this that all judgements and prejudices are equal. Rather all judgements are only as good as the assumptions made about the facts.

In other words Human beings don't operate directly with perfect knowledge. They have made a series of assumptions based on potentially non-representative experience, that they refer to in order to deduce the likely consequences of action X provided assumptions about condition Y are correct. And yet moral and political philosophers opperate as if the conditions that have bearing on humans beings do not apply to them, because they have uniquely been entrusted with experience of Ding an sich.

Hume says this is Hubris.

Mr. Lewis. I get it. You have taken Philosophy well beyond Philosophy 101. Trust me. I really, really get it.

There is a reason that conservatives have long been distrustful of philosophy. For one, it can be used to cloud relatively straight forward discussions.

I appologize, I assumed a discussion on whether or not one could get past perspective to Ding an sich should begin with Hume and Kant. For while I agree with Dr. Krannawiter..when he suggests that Horowitz is arguing on the wrong intellectual seems to me that he can only be saying that the wrong means are being used to achieve the ends. I am suggesting that Horowitz is not up to the task that Dr. Krannawiter would have him accomplish because he (Horowitz) agrees with Hume. Quite ironically the intellectual foundations for why conservatives might distrust philosophy also begins with Hume.

The general tone of the article written by Dr. Krannawiter could find a home at Capitalist Magazine or other quasi-objectivist web sites...the message seems to parrot the views of Ayn Rand. Intellectuals today are paralyzed because they have consumed too much Kant and Hume...they are thus intellectually disarmed/incapacitated(See the New Intellectual by Ayn Rand)

But I don't think Dr. Krannawiter believes that Ayn Rand was right about what the truths are that "form the core of political justice and the American experiment in self-government."

If you are an observant person I don't see how you could come to disagree that the fundamental reality in politics is competing lawgivers/philosophers...and they are competing philosophically because they disagree about how experience(Phenomena) should be or is structured(Noumena) stake is that which should be praised or blamed.

Now what David Hume or Machiavelli might say is that people don't really care about philosophy. They start with ends...with goals...with things they want to defend...things they want to praise, and they work backwards...What I want to see justifies how I want to see the world. This was a critique of Rawls interestingly enough...and Kant invented his ethical categories in part to escape this...

Maybe ritualistic chest-thumping among rivals has more in common with shock and awe than I thought.

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