Sunday, February 22, 2015


It seems that there is massive confusion in the West about the valid domain of multiculturalism. I believe that it should not entail condoning another country’s government in cases where human rights are blatantly violated. 

In particular, “Sharia Law”, as applied by governments of some Islamic theocracies, involves blatant human rights violations. For example, that law apparently prescribes stoning an adulteress to death, killing homosexuals and apostates, and many other outrageous or excessive punishments (take a look, for example, at the Wikipedia article on Sharia Law). It seems that the approval of such rights-violating governments is all too often extended by leftists and progressives, and who are generally quick to denounce criticism of these governments as “Islamaphobia”. I for one am mystified as to why that is the case in the United States today. Should not leftists and progressives generally denounce governments and cultures that, for example, treat women as second class citizens? I can only guess that their seeming approval comes from a misguided, and mindlessly applied, “multiculturalism”.

Multiculturalism should rightly celebrate such things as the variety of the world’s music and arts, but should not extend to the approval of governments that violate human rights.

Our disapproval in these cases should never take the form of military intervention; what is needed is engagement in the realm of ideas.

3 comments:

Joshua Hamm said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

I struggle with what you say here: "The consequentialist type of libertarian would likely argue that people should be free to use any drug for personal enjoyment, as long as the effect of this freedom does not prove harmful to society at large." You go on to define the deontologist as one who argues that such harm is NOT sufficient for a prohibition.

What is meant here by "harmful"? I would submit, and I assume any consequentialist would as well, that if by harmful we mean deleterious to others ("greater society") in a way that diminishes their well-being (a prerequisite for enjoying rights) or imposes involuntary cost, then the result of action that produces harm is tantamount to an initiation of force on others; which the deontologist uses as a principle for determining if an act is permissible in the first place.

The pragmatist in me resists the declaration that there are NO sets of consequences that serve to justify an initiation of force. Granted, I think these are much fewer than your typical leftist or rightist would (significantly fewer), but even the acceptance of a single consequence as being sufficient for the application force is enough to make one NOT a deontologist. I would also argue that deontology even logically breaks down in ethical dilemmas where the consequences are sufficiently large in scope, even if such dilemmas are rare and extreme.

For example, if faced with a dilemma wherein initiation of force is the only thing that could possibly prevent some large-scale natural disaster from extinguishing all beings even capable of possessing rights in the first place, then to do the "deontological" thing would have the (presumably undesirable) consequence of all these "rational ends unto themselves" ceasing to exist - tantamount to destruction of the deontological enterprise itself, since rights cease to exist along with the beings supposedly in possession of them. Faced with such an extreme dilemma, I doubt there is any deontologist who would accept such a consequence for the sake of consistent application of principle.

Granted, our current social dilemmas are not this immediate or extreme, but scaling down, I submit that if the actions of some person(s) produce an effect that can be quantified as having some deleterious effect on non-consenting third parties (equating to some negative consequence for society as a whole), then application of force in preventing people from doing this is justified. This is the same as saying that one does not possess the right to do things that, even if by accident, impose some form of cost upon others.

This is not the same as saying, however, that it is justifiable to initiate force or prohibit something because doing so produces a POSITIVE effect for society. You seem to agree, since you talk about "positive" versus "negative" rights. I would also caveat the definition of harm with the stipulation that one is not "harmed" merely because they are forced by others to tolerate actions they personally find morally unsavory.

Given what I have to say in response, I would argue that initiating force to PREVENT direct harm or imposition of cost (whether great or small) to others is justified; but initiating force is NOT justified simply because it is likely to PRODUCE greater goods. So I suppose I am more of a consequentialist. And at any rate, I think we both agree that true greater goods tend to be produced, at least in the long run, by allowing the naturally selective process of free markets of economics and ideas to do their naturally selective work. Work that is prevented by initiating force in order to produce so called "greater goods", which usually amounts to maintenance of the cultural status quo, which has diminishing returns.

Josh

Joshua Hamm said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

I struggle with what you say here: "The consequentialist type of libertarian would likely argue that people should be free to use any drug for personal enjoyment, as long as the effect of this freedom does not prove harmful to society at large." You go on to define the deontologist as one who argues that such harm is NOT sufficient for a prohibition.

What is meant here by "harmful"? I would submit, and I assume any consequentialist would as well, that if by harmful we mean deleterious to others ("greater society") in a way that diminishes their well-being (a prerequisite for enjoying rights) or imposes involuntary cost, then the result of action that produces harm is tantamount to an initiation of force on others; which the deontologist uses as a principle for determining if an act is permissible in the first place.

The pragmatist in me resists the declaration that there are NO sets of consequences that serve to justify an initiation of force. Granted, I think these are much fewer than your typical leftist or rightist would (significantly fewer), but even the acceptance of a single consequence as being sufficient for the application force is enough to make one NOT a deontologist. I would also argue that deontology even logically breaks down in ethical dilemmas where the consequences are sufficiently large in scope, even if such dilemmas are rare and extreme.

For example, if faced with a dilemma wherein initiation of force is the only thing that could possibly prevent some large-scale natural disaster from extinguishing all beings even capable of possessing rights in the first place, then to do the "deontological" thing would have the (presumably undesirable) consequence of all these "rational ends unto themselves" ceasing to exist - tantamount to destruction of the deontological enterprise itself, since rights cease to exist along with the beings supposedly in possession of them. Faced with such an extreme dilemma, I doubt there is any deontologist who would accept such a consequence for the sake of consistent application of principle.

Granted, our current social dilemmas are not this immediate or extreme, but scaling down, I submit that if the actions of some person(s) produce an effect that can be quantified as having some deleterious effect on non-consenting third parties (equating to some negative consequence for society as a whole), then application of force in preventing people from doing this is justified. This is the same as saying that one does not possess the right to do things that, even if by accident, impose some form of cost upon others.

This is not the same as saying, however, that it is justifiable to initiate force or prohibit something because doing so produces a POSITIVE effect for society. You seem to agree, since you talk about "positive" versus "negative" rights. I would also caveat the definition of harm with the stipulation that one is not "harmed" merely because they are forced by others to tolerate actions they personally find morally unsavory.

Given what I have to say in response, I would argue that initiating force to PREVENT direct harm or imposition of cost (whether great or small) to others is justified; but initiating force is NOT justified simply because it is likely to PRODUCE greater goods. So I suppose I am more of a consequentialist. And at any rate, I think we both agree that true greater goods tend to be produced, at least in the long run, by allowing the naturally selective process of free markets of economics and ideas to do their naturally selective work. Work that is prevented by initiating force in order to produce so called "greater goods", which usually amounts to maintenance of the cultural status quo, which has diminishing returns.

Josh

Joshua Hamm said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

I struggle with what you say here: "The consequentialist type of libertarian would likely argue that people should be free to use any drug for personal enjoyment, as long as the effect of this freedom does not prove harmful to society at large." You go on to define the deontologist as one who argues that such harm is NOT sufficient for a prohibition.

What is meant here by "harmful"? I would submit, and I assume any consequentialist would as well, that if by harmful we mean deleterious to others ("greater society") in a way that diminishes their well-being (a prerequisite for enjoying rights) or imposes involuntary cost, then the result of action that produces harm is tantamount to an initiation of force on others; which the deontologist uses as a principle for determining if an act is permissible in the first place.

The pragmatist in me resists the declaration that there are NO sets of consequences that serve to justify an initiation of force. Granted, I think these are much fewer than your typical leftist or rightist would (significantly fewer), but even the acceptance of a single consequence as being sufficient for the application force is enough to make one NOT a deontologist. I would also argue that deontology even logically breaks down in ethical dilemmas where the consequences are sufficiently large in scope, even if such dilemmas are rare and extreme.

For example, if faced with a dilemma wherein initiation of force is the only thing that could possibly prevent some large-scale natural disaster from extinguishing all beings even capable of possessing rights in the first place, then to do the "deontological" thing would have the (presumably undesirable) consequence of all these "rational ends unto themselves" ceasing to exist - tantamount to destruction of the deontological enterprise itself, since rights cease to exist along with the beings supposedly in possession of them. Faced with such an extreme dilemma, I doubt there is any deontologist who would accept such a consequence for the sake of consistent application of principle.

Granted, our current social dilemmas are not this immediate or extreme, but scaling down, I submit that if the actions of some person(s) produce an effect that can be quantified as having some deleterious effect on non-consenting third parties (equating to some negative consequence for society as a whole), then application of force in preventing people from doing this is justified. This is the same as saying that one does not possess the right to do things that, even if by accident, impose some form of cost upon others.

This is not the same as saying, however, that it is justifiable to initiate force or prohibit something because doing so produces a POSITIVE effect for society. You seem to agree, since you talk about "positive" versus "negative" rights. I would also caveat the definition of harm with the stipulation that one is not "harmed" merely because they are forced by others to tolerate actions they personally find morally unsavory.

Given what I have to say in response, I would argue that initiating force to PREVENT direct harm or imposition of cost (whether great or small) to others is justified; but initiating force is NOT justified simply because it is likely to PRODUCE greater goods. So I suppose I am more of a consequentialist. And at any rate, I think we both agree that true greater goods tend to be produced, at least in the long run, by allowing the naturally selective process of free markets of economics and ideas to do their naturally selective work. Work that is prevented by initiating force in order to produce so called "greater goods", which usually amounts to maintenance of the cultural status quo, which has diminishing returns.

Josh