And now for something completely different.

herd mind

To date, my blogs have been exclusively my musings on whatever struck my fancy but now I’m going to mix it up a bit. I’ve been involved in a very interesting exchange (with someone who shall remain anonymous) over my blog “Grey is the best colour” from a couple of days ago. The exchange is one I find heartening. It’s fun and my fellow conversationalist displays the subtlety that I find so lacking in so many spheres these days. I suspect the conversation will continue but I thought you might like to see how things have gone so far.

_____________: I understand the notion of contextualization and the philosophical importance you are attaching to grey, however, I am reminded of a statement I often make in classes I teach. “Moral relativism is intellectual cowardice.” Sometimes the world is about blacks and whites, and standing up for black, or standing up for white, are the only two choices, because any shade of grey is de facto white or black. Get my drift? Sometimes the aberration from the standard is to fall holus bolus into moral vacuity. Another thoughtful piece. So glad I saw the first one.

Me: I agree with your general contention: positions – clear and unequivocal – are frequently required. What bothers me in our pronouncement-happy world is that such pronouncements commonly take the place of a supporting argument. While the motto, appeal or “call to action” might appear clearly defensible, without an understanding of how one arrived at such a place, actions become shallow and little more than the herd mind at work. In such an environment, especially when media coverage/frenzy is added to the mix, the result can be a radicalized group of slogan chanters fueled by emotion without understanding. Taking a position – clear and unequivocal – should be the end of a process, not where one begins. And thank you for the thoughtful comment.

_____________: I agree with the idea that position should be based on some understanding rather than blind acceptance. But if we applied that logic to many things, the outcomes I believe would be deeply distressing to most. Like the Allegory of the Cave, the truth is hard to take, like turning the lights on in the morning. This relates to John Rawl’s philosophic notion of the “veil of ignorance,” or even John Lennon’s song “Imagine” for that matter. But here’s a thought. What if we take a position on an issue without entering the process of meditation you allude to, and instead take the position by stripping ourselves of our preconceived notions, biases and hang-ups? Chances are, the just or virtuous position would be on the only option left on the table. The magic is then realized by reassuming our inherent biases and still ending up at that point- whether it be black or white.

Me: “Know thyself, presume not God to scan” to coin a phrase. I have a fundamental, core conception of life that includes an element of mystery in all things, including the self. It is difficult for me to imagine recognizing all of my “preconceived notions, biases and hang-ups” let alone being able to rid myself of them, even for a moment. To my way of thinking, being rational requires that we recognize the fluidity and indefinable character (at the very least, some small part) of ideals such as virtue, goodness, etc. While I will forego the opportunity for the moment, this exchange offers me an excellent springboard into a topic that is dear to my heart. As for just what that topic is, tune in another day.


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