Paternalism

Rahul Mahajan rahul at hagar.ph.utexas.edu
Sat Apr 15 15:00:55 MDT 1995


>I'm sorry Rahul doesn't like my style of critique. I'm not trying to make
>fun of anyone, just to arrive at true beliefs justified by good arguments.
>I'm likewise not trying to one-up anyone, merely to learn. I do, on this
>list, which is why I stay here.
>
>RFahul asks whether the fall of Communism doesn't refute my claim that
>socialism would be more stable than capitalism. Well, striuctly, in my
>orgibal formulation, I put the point in terms of emancipatory orders
>beiung more stable than regimes of domination. I didn't mention socialism
>or capitalism at all. But my view is that Communism was not an
>emanciparory order but a regime of domination whose fall illustrates my
>point. I also don't think it was socialism, if that means working class
>democratic control over the economy.

Mighty hard to get down to cases when there have been so few historical
examples of emancipatory orders, and any that one might care to put forward
were generally beaten down by imperialist intervention. But, if you want to
talk about stability, how about the example of India? Largely because of
the complex, intricate structure of domination that was (and is) the caste
system, India achieved for 2000 years an incredible level of stability in
basic social organization, even though during that time it had to absorb
literally hundreds of waves of invasion. Obviously, no structure in the
modern world can be held up to that standard, nor would it make sense to do
so. Still, impressive, no?
    A tightly, organically organized hierarchical structure can be
incredibly stable, whereas even small political activist groups find it
difficult to keep to a nonhierarchical structure if they want to keep from
splitting apart.
    Another point: it should be self-evident that lack of technological
advancement is a strong factor tending toward stability, as you claim an
emancipatory social order is. Would you agree with the claim that this
helpos to show that lack of innovation is necessarily more just than its
presence?

>Is my argument that might makes right, he asks, or that right makes might?
>Well neither, actually. Recall that the problem is this. We like
>emancipation, but the riuling class likes domination. How can we
>adjudicate this matter without begginbg the question against the ruling
>class? We needn't make them agree, but we want an argument which shows
>they ought to on their own terms. So I seek something they accept and
>cannot easiuly give up which would commit them to emancipation. I suugest
>that this is justice, a genuine reconciliation of interests. They will
>claim that their rule is just, but if I am right that domination produces
>resustance which (a) is evidencxe that there is no reconciliation of
>interests and (b) destabilizes domination, then that destabilization shows
>that on their own terms the ruling class is wrong. We need not here appeal
>to any hypothetical consideratioins or anything but their actual beliefs
>and interests. Now, does this mean that whoever wins is right? No, but
>winning--establishing a stable order--is evidence of being right. Does it
>mean that whoever is right wins? In my view, contingently, yes--there's a
>tendency that way. But the realtion between might and right here is
>comnplex and--dare I say--dialectical. It's not simple.

In fact, the claim of the elite that their rule is just, while it is
believed by many of the, is simply a cloak for exploitation and
manipulation. Justice, as you define it, is in fact not part of their moral
code. To get straight to the point, the only way to refute them on their
own terms is to remove them from power, because that's truly the only
principle they're protecting, despite the false consciousness of some about
the matter. No need for fancy analysis -- look at the Geneva Convention,
which set the "rules" for waging war. It clearly forbids the bombing of
civilian populations, which the U.S. indulged in in every war since the
convention. However, no one (of substance) ever called for the prosecution
of any for war crimes, because they won, and the real moral basis of war is
that might makes right. I realize I'm not saying anything new here, but you
seem to be ignoring this.

>This argument is supposed to give us, who like emancipation, moral
>confidence that we are right, to settle the relativistic problem I began
>with.  It won'[t persuade the ruling class, but it doesn't have to. They
>need not agree that they are wrong to be refuted on their own terms. That
>is the point and, I take it, the beauty of my argument.

It's always nice to refute them on their own (stated) terms, and it's easy
to do case by case -- take neoliberal economics as an especially easy one.
But how are you going to refute someone who doesn't believe in
emancipation, whether it's because God said it's wrong or because it'll
mean that the great unwashed will be just as human as they are?

>In regard to Lisa's worry about the point of doing moral philosophy, why
>care about whether wer are right? Well, we do care, don't we? If social
>struggle involves immense risks to us and may put us in the position of
>killing and dying, we want to have some assyrance--defeasible, revisible,
>not absolute, but some, that we're not doing this for no good reason or
>for a bad one. Universal agreementr is not to be expected given
>conflicting interests, and wouldn't mean we were right anyway. But some
>reason that is more or less objective would be nice to have. That in part
>is why do do moral philosophy.

I agree completely that we want to have some assurance, and that we can't
ever have an incontrovertible assurance. But an objective reason? How about
"The good of the many outweighs the good of the few." Why cast around for
something that the elite will agree with (or would have to agree with if
they were honest)

>Incidentally you don't get universal
>agreement inn science either. Certainly not at the frontiers of research,
>but even in more or less settled things, lik ev\olution. More people in
>America are creationists than evolutionists, if polls are accurate.

What is this? Are you honestly going to claim that the "opinions" of people
who know nothing about the history of life on the question of evolution are
at all relevant? No biologist, except for a few crackpots with axes to
grind, disputes the occurrence of organic evolution, although there is a
lively debate about eh relative significance of various mechanisms.

> Moral
>philosophy is just thinking about ethics, as biology is thinking about
>life. It's no different in principle and no more pointless or off-bounds.
>--Justin Schwartz
Biology is not just thinking about life. If it were, it would have gotten
nowhere, which is about where moral philosophy has gotten.

Rahul





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