Regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of Harry G. Frankfurt, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. His book On Bullshit was transformative, not because of the ideas Frankfurt explores, but because Frankfurt was the first philosopher to make his ideas accessible and penetrable, at least to me. I started my journey into philosophy with Bertrand Russell, and to this day, on pain of death, I cannot tell you what Russell thinks the Problems of Philosophy are, although I understand perfectly well why feminist philosophers run screaming from the room when Russell comes up – thinking about truth and knowledge and ethics is hard! Feeling is much easier.
There is also the uncomfortable reality that thinking can be wrong. Your ideas can be demonstrably wrong. It’s much more difficult for feelings to be wrong. 2 + 2 = 5 is factually, mathematically, rationally wrong. I feel that two and two make a unit that is greater than the sum of its parts is sloppy thinking but it’s hard to say it’s “wrong” when you are just talking about how the units feel.
Thinking and feeling are different ways that we experience reality. They are not equivalent ways of experiencing reality.
Frankfurt’s book On Inequality prompted much of my Ovary Acting column at Dangerous today. Net Neutrality, in a nutshell, removes inequality from how quickly or efficiently the Internet behaves – Stormfront loads as quickly as Jezebel because the delivery tool pays no attention to the content of the message delivered. You would think lefties would be all over censoring the content of the Internet, but they get stuck on the idea of inequality, because they haven’t thought about the issue very thoroughly.
Again, it’s easier to feel than think, and feelings suffice for those who love dogma and the easy, emotionally satisfying answers of the left. Love trumps hate. Yeah, okay. How did that work out for the Jews in 1939? Was love an effective strategy? It feels good, but did it work?
I guess it depends on who you ask: the Jews or the Nazis.
I realize I’ve gone to Godwin’s Law here, but think about the Nazi metaphor. Just get on the train. You’ll have a nice shower at the end. Don’t fight. Don’t resist. All will be well. Arbeit macht frei….
The open-borders, love-trumps-hate, don’t-resist crew are the Nazis, in the sense that they want the rest of us to ignore reality and just go with what feels good. It feels good to think Islam is just some nice goat-herding, religion of peace…. just step over those bodies and try not to think bad thoughts …..
It feels good to think equality is a moral good….
Net Neutrality will lead to unequal access to the Internet, but it’s no big deal. There is nothing wrong with inequality, as long as everyone can log on.
The Twitter hashtag #FucktheFCC emerged as a response to the Federal Communications Commission’s recent decision to rescind Obama-era net neutrality regulations, restoring what FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called “a free and open Internet”. When Pai was not being invited to “kill himself” by tolerant citizens of the left, many responders noted that a free and open Internet would also likely offer faster, better speeds to those who can pay.
Much of the opposition to an open internet rests on the assumption that there is something morally objectionable in the resulting inequality of access, but upon examination, it is difficult to make a coherent case supporting inequality as an inherently negative thing. That some people have access to a faster internet based on their ability and willingness to pay is not a morally significant issue, as long as everyone has some sort of access to what amounts to a vital utility in the modern world.
The framing of inequality as a moral issue structures much of the left’s understanding of how the world works. Gender inequality, racial inequality, and income inequality are all understood as morally bad things, regardless of the reason for the inequality or the individual responses to the inequality.
A woman who has freely chosen to forgo an income so she can be at home to raise her children has made a choice many women consider a luxury, but this choice is still framed by the left as an example of inequality that is inherently bad and wrong, simply because the resulting income for the woman (zero) is unequal to her husband’s income (not zero).
This kind of gender inequality, arising from women’s specific and preferred choices, is known as the ‘wage gap.’
The vision of inequality as bad is not coherent over all examples, though.
Some racial inequalities are perceived as important and morally fraught, while other inequalities are not troubling. The dearth of women in PhD programs in STEM subjects is a morally contentious inequality, but the over-representation of both men and women from Asian backgrounds is not.
Feminist activists express deep concern over women’s unequal burden of domestic labor especially when it comes to caring for small children, but also actively and successfully oppose shared legal custody of children. Inequality is important when the burden falls on women, but not important when the burden falls on men.
Donald Trump does not have as much money as the Queen of England, but this inequality is not generally perceived as morally significant. To the other extreme, the moral aspects of hunger confronting a family of five with a single loaf of bread to share for a meal are not in any way satisfied by forcing that family to share with another, equally disadvantaged family.