RE: MD What makes an idea dangerous?

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sat Oct 25 2003 - 22:19:08 BST

  • Next message: Wim Nusselder: "Re: MD What makes an idea dangerous?"

    Andy and all MOQers:

    dmb says:
    I've trimmed your post into two chunks. The first one is a collection of all
    the statements that seem to get right at your main confession, your main
    point. The second chunk is your (Andy's) concluding paragraph.

    Andy said:
    I, being a pacifist, would resort to (bullets) 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. ...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. ...I have to
    admit that I think Platt's ideas are dangerous. I don't think he is too far
    removed from fascism. ...I can't take the high ground if I think the world
    would be better off without individuals who hold views such Platt's. ...I
    don't think I would shed many tears if those responsible for these policies
    met a tragic end. ...I was appalled until I realized that I might have the
    same feelings if an archconservative met a similar fate. (as Wellstone's)

    dmb says:
    I imagine everyone can relate to what you're saying. There is a dark side, a
    hateful, murderous, genocidal impulse in the human heart. Maybe its a
    vestige of our evolutionary past as animals and fierce tribalists, when
    killing your competitors was a good thing, a moral thing to do. We rightly
    think of such impulses as evil now and in Pirsigian terms, that's because
    such impulses are lower level values trying to assert themselves, are the
    voice of the Giant within us. (Jungian psychology says that the ability to
    experience and admit one's dark side (without acting on it) is a sign of
    good mental health.)

    Obviously, we don't translate that feeling into a criminal act because we
    know better, just like we wouldn't turn lust at the supermarket into an
    actual sex act. Naturally, the question of dangerous ideas is more
    complicated than making the simple observation that crimes are crimes. The
    interesting thing here is, I think, is the subtle way this gets at sorting
    out the value levels within ourselves, the way the values levels are so
    intimately connected to our passions, even dark feelings like ill will and
    murderous hate.

    And please believe me when I tell you that the following is not just a cheap
    segue to the second chuck of Andy's comments, but is very much related to
    the point I'm trying to make here. The MOQ can't rightly be used by NAZI's
    not just because they are used as a concrete example, but because the MOQ
    adds that example to so many others that we get a picture of what social
    values are all about and how they can then be recognized in whatever form
    they appear, even in our own culture and in ourselves.

    And finally, it is exactly this orienting generalization that allows us to
    see fascism in our own culture, place and time and not just in 1940s Europe.
    I mean, the neo-con pussy-hawks, who have only succeeded in making the world
    a more dangerous place for Americans, are a prime example. Except for the
    occaisionaly bit of lip service paid to principles like freedom and
    democracy, this crew exhibits social level values at almost every
    opportunity. They're all about God, guns and money. They're secretive,
    deceptive and punitive toward their critics. They've shown contempt for
    rights and democracy at home and contempt for international law and
    co-operation in front of the whole world. With with us or you're against us
    in the pre-emptive wars against the world's "evildoers"? And these
    "crusades" are to be waged by Generals who think "the American people didn't
    put George W. Bush in the White House, Jesus did.". I mean, if you ever
    wondered what American fascism would look like, just watch the news - FOX
    news. :-)

    Andy began his conclusion:
    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.

    dmb says:
    Hmmm. I think the MOQ's picture of levels in conflict explains mountians
    about what ideas are considered dangerous to whom and such. The old-timers
    who tried to keep a lid on the Zuni Brujo must have thought he was full of
    dangerous ideas. The Victorians who agreed that "the only good Indian is a
    dead Indian" must have thought the "savages" had all kinds of backward (and
    evil) ideas. The Jews of Europe must have thought anti-semetic ideas were
    dangerous, etc.

    But what really grabbed me here is the last sentence. "Philosophy has
    nothing to say on what trait dangerous ideas might share." It grabbed be
    because Rorty says the same thing about truth. He says...

    "For pragmatists, "truth" is just the name of a property which all true
    statements share. ...Pragmatists doubt that there is much to be said for
    this common feature. They doubt this for the same reason they doubt that
    there is much to be said about the common feature shared by praiseworthy
    actions... They see certain acts as good ones to perform, under the
    circumstances, but doubt that there is anything general and useful to say
    about what makes them all good."

    Truth is a common feature of true statements. There is little to be said
    about this common feature, nothing general or useful. True statements and
    morally praisworthy acts are just a common features of things about which we
    have some intersubjective agreement about truth and morality. Truth and
    morality are not things in themselves, but are attributes of particular
    statements and acts. Truth and morality, in and of themselves, don't really
    exist. They are subjective qualities. Ha! Isn't this the very mess Pirsig
    starts with? I realize that post-modern linguistic espistemology isn't the
    same thing as teaching freshman composition, but the point remains, no? In
    MOQ terms, truth and morality are not just subjective attributes of
    objective realities, they are just as real as rocks and trees.

    Andy continued his conclusion:
     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 are 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.

    dmb says:
    The ultimate arbiter of truth? I honestly don't see how such a concern is
    relevant to the MOQ. I know. The Pragmatists think the choice is between
    intersubjective truths and the ultimate absolute truth, and that we really
    have no choice because there is no such thing as the ultimate truth. I think
    this is a false dilemma generally, and has nothing to do with the MOQ in
    particular. To believe that Pirsig is offering his MOQ as some kind of final
    arbiter requires one to ignore most everything he's saying. His picture
    includes the primary reality, but unlike anything like a foundationalist
    metaphysics, that reality in the undefible mystical reality. Everything
    else, the world we can define and know in the ordinary sense, is an
    evolutionary jungle with contingency and provisionality built right in. Is a
    static reality where cultures and languages and ideas blend with and are
    absorbed by other cultures, languages and ideas. And in that forrest of
    evolving manifestation, truth is a real thing. Its a species of Quality,
    intellectual static quality. It is neither the "Absolute truth" nor the mere
    "property" of a statement.


    MOQ.ORG -
    Mail Archives:
    Aug '98 - Oct '02 -
    Nov '02 Onward -
    MD Queries -

    To unsubscribe from moq_discuss follow the instructions at:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sat Oct 25 2003 - 22:22:23 BST