Re: MD What makes an idea dangerous?

From: Joe (
Date: Tue Oct 21 2003 - 17:42:34 BST

  • Next message: David MOREY: "Re: MD What makes an idea dangerous?"

    I don't know if this post was torn from you. It resonates mightily. Thank


    > All Moqr's
    > Normally I don't feel the need to address comments made by Platt, because
    of they appear so obviously ridiculous to me. However, the following quotes
    forced me to do a little soul-searching. Platt said about Rorty and his
    fellow travelers (of which Matt and I would be included):
    > "I consider Rorty and his fellow travelers dangerous to a free society
    because without confidence in the concept of truth (and it's companion,
    logic), the public is disarmed against lies. ("I did not have sex with that
    woman . . ." is still being defended by many as a statement of fact.)"
    > and
    > "I find Rorty's theory of truth (what you can get away with) not only
    philosophically uninteresting but more than that, socially dangerous."
    > Now, I don't feel the need to defend Rorty here, because Scott, David and
    Matt have all satisfactorily defended Rorty's position on truth and
    demonstrated Platt's complete misunderstanding of this position. However,
    something else jumped out at me upon reading these lines. What troubles me
    is that I also consider some people's ideas dangerous. Platt and I (along
    with most others) would both consider ideas endorsed by Nazi's as dangerous.
    So, what do we do about it? Platt would solve the problem with a bullet.
    Rorty would probably concur. I, being a pacifist, would resort to this only
    as a last resort. However, I might not protest too much if others took up
    arms to quiet a growing influence of Nazi and fascist ideas. So, Platt and
    I really don't disagree here. But upon extension of these ideas, we
    quickly part ways.
    > Maybe this is not what Platt means, but when he says Rorty and his fellow
    travelers are dangerous, I make the assumption that he would also reserve a
    bullet for all of us. Or, at the very least, he believes society would be
    better off if we all went away. Platt would shed no tears if Rorty, Matt or
    I came to meet tragic ends. What else could he mean when he says we are
    socially dangerous? Now the tragic part of all of this is that he bases his
    beliefs on some distortions of pragmatism, post-modernism and Rorty.
    However, lets leave that aside. Here's where the soul-searching comes in.
    > I can't take the high ground. Because I also feel that society would be
    better off if certain individuals who held dangerous ideas would come to
    meet sudden and tragic ends. I don't think I would shed any tears over
    their loss. Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" would shed some insight on the
    feelings I have towards individuals who perpetuate war to settle
    disagreements. I have to admit that I think Platt's ideas are dangerous. I
    don't think he is too far removed from fascism. I think his political
    ideologies have very little respect for individual freedoms. That's just
    what I think (His willingness to sacrifice life for a cause, his comments
    supporting the patriot act, his unwillingness to shed any compassion for the
    unfortunate in the world, I have heard enough over a long time to come to
    these conclusions on Platt's views). However, again I can't take the high
    ground if I think the world would be better off without individuals who hold
    views such Platt's.
    > So how do we decide what is a dangerous idea? The easy answer is to say
    that no ideas are dangerous, people are. We should allow everyone the
    opportunity to express their ideas, no matter the consequences. But then
    what do we do about the Nazi? Or about Islamic fundamentals who support
    terrorism? "The Bullet" shouts Platt and people like him. What about
    Communists who are responsible for the millions of lives lost during the
    communist rules in Russia, China and other countries during the cold war?
    "The bullet," they cry once more. The problem that I see is all the
    innocent lives that are caught in the crossfire and the cycle of violence
    that results from this crossfire.
    > So, I read about the role the CIA played during the cold war in military
    coups around the world. The usurpation of democratic movements around the
    world for installed dictatorships with close ties to the US (I am purposely
    being vague here). And I see this as great or even a greater evil. I see
    the trend continuing in the US policy of preemptive strike without the full
    cooperation of the rest of the world (United Nations). I don't think I
    would shed many tears if those responsible for these policies met a tragic
    end. So, we are caught in a grey area. As much as I'd like to stick to
    pacifist principles, I can't help but feel a sort of righteous indignation
    towards those who would resort to using bullets when presented with ideas
    that they view as dangerous. But, I am willing to extend this as far as
    feelings of relief if those individuals themselves met up with a fate
    awaiting them at the opposite end of a rifle. I am willing to bet that
    Platt shares equally strong fe!
    > elings towards all those who hold ideas he considers dangerous.
    > One of my fellow graduate students, whom I considered a friend, was of the
    exact opposite political persuasion as I. When my home-state senator's,
    well-known liberal Paul Wellstone, plane went down in northern Minnesota
    killing all those aboard including his wife and daughter almost one year ago
    today, I mourned in New York state for his tragic loss. It was a loss I
    believed all Americans shared in. Upon speaking with my friend, who has
    always honestly expressed his views without concern for offending others, he
    told me he actually felt a sense of relief upon hearing the news. Like
    hearing that a player for an opposing team suffered a year-end injury, he
    said. He felt the conservative position in the US was suddenly much
    stronger with the loss of Wellstone. I was appalled until I realized that I
    might have the same feelings if an archconservative met a similar fate.
    > I don't know the purpose of this post. Perhaps it is to simply let others
    share in my dilemma while I've been soul-searching. I don't think Pirsig
    offers us any way to get through this or tells us how to answer the question
    of what makes an idea dangerous? I think that is why I gravitate towards
    Rorty and Matt. Philosophy has nothing to say on what trait dangerous idea
    might share. Instead we have to come to some agreement through a democratic
    process. We must be allowed to debate and discuss the merits and the faults
    of all ideas. The other option is to look for some ultimate arbiter of
    truth, but this can only lead, it seems to me, to some level of
    fundamentalism-whether we base this arbitration on the Bible, the Koran, or
    the MOQ. I am not looking for any comments, just kind of thinking out loud.
    I think when we use the MOQ as an arbiter, this is what Matt refers to as
    the Kantian reading of Pirsig. I think when we use the MOQ to shed insight
    into which ideas a!
    > re better for us to hold at this moment in time this is what Matt refers
    to a pragmatist reading of Pirsig. Although it is a struggle, and I (along
    with Platt and many others) might wish for a Kantian reading, I think the
    pragmatist reading holds more promise in the end.
    > Thanks,
    > Andy
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