Re: MD What makes an idea dangerous?

From: David MOREY (
Date: Tue Oct 21 2003 - 20:05:36 BST

  • Next message: David MOREY: "Re: MD Truth"


    A few comments about what you say below.
    Victory in the cold war? -did anyone win the cold war?
    how long will we throw away the resources of the planet
    to achieve what?
    The only victory was in the 'cold' nature of the war, and that
    only for some of us, how we robbed so many countries
    of development in the period.
    Violent cycle ends when total victory is gained?-
    terrorism seems to be the last resort of the defeated,
    and it seems to make it very hard to ever defeat them.
    The link between truth and living in a free society?
    Maybe, given the idea of a common society,
    a united society, but less and less do our
    societies look like a unified/common endeavour.
    can we live with plurality?
    Free society and capitalism, what are your views on
    capitalism Platt? Whilst I say great to the incredible
    productive powers we now possess, and great to
    never having gone hungry or without, I cannot but
    begin to see capitalism as linked to moral and
    spiritual poverty. In a way, I might embrace Platt's
    call to demand truth. But who can be in the truth or in
    touch with the truth. Maybe this site demonstrates this to us,
    truth is not so much a social as a personal and moral matter.
    But when it comes to living and acting it is then very much a social/
    public matter.

    David M

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Platt Holden" <>
    To: <>
    Sent: Tuesday, October 21, 2003 4:52 PM
    Subject: Re: MD What makes an idea dangerous?

    Hi Andy,

    A most interesting (and I might add, coherent) post.

    > 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.

    I would not use bullets unless and until Nazis, radical Islamists,
    Communists or whoever initiated physical force against others. In other
    words, I'll defend anyone's right to say whatever awful things they
    like so long as they don't act out their awfulness by physically
    injuring others.

    > 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.

    No. As explained above.

    > Or, at the very least, he believes
    > society would be better off if we all went away.

    Not if you went away, but that it would be better if you would
    recognize the value of truth in holding a society together.

    > 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?

    Let's not get into 'who would shed the most tears' game. As explained
    above, my only desire is to persuade Rorty, Matt and you that the
    concept of 'truth' is an essential value holding a society, especially
    a free one such as we enjoy, together.

    > 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.

    The danger in holding certain views is that one may act on them. Unless
    and until acting on certain views results in physical harm to others,
    the way to combat them is through persuasion in an open marketplace of

    > 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.

    No, let them talk all they want until they show a willingness and ability to
    those who disagree with them.

    > 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.

    No. Bullets only as a last resort. The cold war was won without

    > 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.

    War kills innocent people. We agree that's 'true.' The cycle of
    violence" ends when one side gains total victory.

    > 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.

    Again let me clarify. I do not condon resorting to bullets when
    presented with dangerous ideas. Bullets are used only when a person, a
    group, or a nation crosses over from the social level of cooperation to
    the biological level of might(weapons of mass destruction)-makes-right.

    >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.

    If Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are killed, I will indeed feel a sense

    > 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.

    Do not be appalled. You are merely admitting your humanity.

    > 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?

    Pirsig doesn't offer pat answers to tough moral questions nor does he
    claim to. For me, his moral hierarchy provides a guide to making moral
    choices. Thus, I consider ideas that threaten the values that hold a
    free society together (like the value of truth) to be 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.

    Yes, definitely. But philosophy has plenty to say about traits of good
    and bad 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.

    Sorry if my comments are uncalled for. Your post, however, invites them
    due to the seriousness of your thinking.

    > 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.

    If your interpretation of Matt's views are correct, you've managed to
    sum up in a single paragraph what it has taken him reams of paper to
    explain. I thank you for that. I gather when it comes to ideas your
    motto would be, "stay open and flexible." I agree to the extent of
    remaining open to DQ, but also believe that static patterns are equally
    to be revered. As Pirsig said, "Without dynamic quality, the organism
    cannot grow. Without static quality, the organism cannot last. Both are
    needed." (11) Of course, maintaining the balance is easier said than

    Thanks for sharing your soul-searching. It's not always easy to expose
    one's innermost doubts to others. I admire your courage in doing so.


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