Friday, February 27, 2015

Liberalism and Racism

In response to:

The first thing is that the author is confusing liberalism as a philosophical concept of Locke, Mill, and Rawls with the reality of the United States' law enforcement system. The act of stereotyping people based on their color of their skin is not a liberal idea, and the act of the stereotyping that these groups do is not condoned but actually condemned in the writings of these great philosophers.

The call for equality and universal protection for all is an ideal, and is something that social activists (myself included) have pushed for for hundreds of years. The beauty of this ideology is that opposed to the major alternatives (particularly Marxism, and Realism in International Relations) it sees a possibility of a world where people can work together and cooperate as opposed to fight by becoming more dependent on one another so they want other people to do better.

In a classroom setting, let's take the two fundamentally opposed views. In the liberal view there will be different students working together in order to learn the material. If one student doesn't understand the material they will help their classmates with the concept so that everyone in the classroom can learn together and when one individual falls behind the rest of the class can lift that person back up to where the others are, and then if that individual moves ahead in an area they can then help their classmates again understand the concept so that their overall average knowledge will be better than the alternatives. This is the view proposed by Locke, Mill, and Rawls among other great liberals.

Marxism is the major alternative. Marxism, put very simply is the theory that history can be defined as the conflict between two different classes (when Marx was writing there was no middle class) stretching back to the beginning of agriculture. In the same classroom example we will see the students who pick concepts up easiest and understand the material better are the bourgeoise and the other students are the proletariat. Marx's diagnosis then is not for the bourgeoise to lift up the proletariat but for the proletariat to start a revolution and tear down the bourgeoise students, an example of which in the real world is the vicious bullying that can occur in classrooms at all ages.

In this way, local police departments that are acting are seen as not acting within the framework of liberalism but within the framework of Marxism which sees that there must always be conflict between the two classes! Liberalism and Marxism should be seen as ideals, and the systems which claim to be one or the other may have certain aspects in places but not others of these very large schools of thought.

Another common mistake that this individual in this article is making is reading everything that the authors say as being literal. I am working through Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan right now (I finished the first book and am slowly working through the second among all the other things I am working on and reading) as a hobby and at some point through the book the way he was talking about what he was saying I realized that it is not a literal work but actually sarcastic. The parts of The Prince I have read as part of some classes has made it clear to me as well that Macchiavelli was writing in a time where outright saying "Liberty for all mankind" as Locke would do 200 years later would have gotten him killed. But living under the de Medici family who allowed more expressive art than any other state in Europe at the time gave him the freedom he needed to write in a sarcastic manner saying everything that a tyrant would do that careful readers will realize through important snippets is an act in absurdity. Today with modern liberal philosophers starting with Thomas Paine and further expanding with John Stuart Mill we see these philosophers take these ideas which were manifesting under Locke and bring out the central premise of these three earlier philosopher and bring them to their natural conclusion.

One cannot read moral philosophy of this era as literal and must be careful to look for sarcasm and particular turns of phrase which are there to disguise their heretical work (for the era) from the intellectually and morally impoverished minds of the monarchs of the era but the true meaning of these texts are written to come out to intellectuals so their ideas can expand in those circles. This is the case until American Independence.

When it comes to John Locke's authorship of the Fundamentals of the Constitutions of Carolina were written in 1669 when he was 37 years old. He didn't start writing his great philosophical tracts until 1689, a full 20 years later. To me this shows that in 20 years he grew as a philosopher and seeing the contradictions between his earlier views and later views that he appears to have changed his mind. This can also be seen in his religious views which started in Calvinism when he was young but by the 1690s he was clearly a deist or Arian. Locke's life (as this author should know) did not live a stagnant life where he was born and by the age of 18 had all of his liberal views figured out and never changed, but evolved substantially over his adult life. Would John Locke have written that Constitution as it was with his major change of moral and religious opinions if it had been done in the 1690s? Given his complete turnaround of almost every issue I suspect he wouldn't have.
Was he racist as a 37 year old? Yes. Was he racist in his 60s? His writings heavily suggest that he grew out of it.

In short, I found this article to be extremely flawed in numerous aspects as I have outlined and doesn't have the type of philosophical underpinnings in the writings (with the one exception of a writing Locke wrote 20 years before he started his philosophical work) needed to condemn an entire school of thought. Reading later liberal philosophers, the most important of which she completely ignores shows that this is a very weak case and a misrepresentation of a major school of thought.