Blargh Blog

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Political Philosophy Meme

Taken up from Christopher Tollefsen

Part I

1. Do you support a right to abortion, even in normal consensual situations?
2. Do you support a very robust notion of animal rights?
3. Are you a pacifist?
4. Do you consider the traditional family to be an oppressive and arbitrary institution?
5. Do you style yourself an opponent of tradition.
6. Do you consider capital punishment to be immoral?
7. Do you consider the Iraq war to be unjust?
8. Do you believe that Intelligent Design is not a reasonable scientific position?

My Answers:

1. Yes.
2. Yes, I think, though the question is too vague to be sure.
3. No.
4. No, I guess, assuming that "the traditional family" mostly means having a husband, a wife, and their kids, and does not require highly unequal gender roles which give most authority to men or place severe burdens solely on women. Also, I am assuming that denying the arbitrariness of the traditional family does not require viewing all other family arrangements as illegitimate.
5. No, that's not my style.
6. Ambivalent, and I don't think that it's all that important, but I lean towards the view that we should get rid of the death penalty for criminal trials.
7. Yes.
8. Yes.

Part II

Do you hold the following tenets?

(1) Belief in a transcendent order
(2) Affection for variety and opposition to the uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of radical systems
(3) Opposition to the idea of a "classless society"
(4) Conviction that freedom and property are closely linked
(5) Faith in custom, convention, and Burkean "prejudice"
(6) Prudence as regards social change
(7) The perfectability of man
(8) Contempt for tradition
(9) Political leveling
(10) Economic leveling

My Answers:

(1) No, at least I don't think so.
(2) Ambivalent. I don't see how this is a single tenet. Yes I have an affection for variety, but no, in many cases I am not opposed to systems that pursue certain kinds of uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims.
(3) I have no idea what this means.
(4) Sort of. In practice many important kinds of freedom require institutions of property, though many do not (freedom to think and do as you please). I also don't think that it is necessarily the case that freedom to use something requires that you have an exclusive right to it.
(5) Sort of. The beliefs, feelings, and practices that arise through social life should not be dismissed lightly, but they should be open to questioning, investigation, and change, not accepted on faith.
(6) Yes, of course. Unless "prudence" has some weird technical definition here.
(7) No.
(8) No.
(9) I have no idea what this means.
(10) Sort of. I favor efforts to improve the economic circumstances of people who are in a bad economic situation, and I would like people to be in a position where they have opportunities to succeed, but I don't take a completely level economic distribution to be a goal worth pursuing.

The first list, 1. through 8., is the Goss list. Apparently any genuine conservative must answer "no" to 1-5, though 6-8 are open to disagreement. This strikes me as an odd litmus test for conservatism, as I don't see how the five requirements represent a single coherent political philosophy. How you set the boundaries on who belongs within our moral community (farm animals? human fetuses?) does not strike me as very central to the way we deal with the rest of our society. It is good to see someone with the honesty to admit that conservatives are exclusive with respect to the views on abortion that fit inside their tent. I am surprised, though, by the claim that support for a very robust notion of animal rights is also a deal-breaker, as Goss himself seems to put fairly stringent restrictions on how we should treat animals, favoring "serious political action to reform the meat industry" (my words, his assent), since "humans should have a serious regard for animal welfare" (his words). Maybe he only considers an outright prohibition of animal-killing to count as "very robust", but if that is so then this criterion has a similar problem to the "no pacifism" restriction and other questions on which I fell on the conservative side: they only rule out people with rather extreme views. People who are skeptical about wars or traditions but do not have a blanket opposition to war or an outright opposition to tradition will probably fall outside the conservative camp, though they remain in a position to appreciate many conservative arguments.

The second list, (1) through (10) is the Kirk list, with 1-6 representing the essential tenets of conservatism and 7-10 the essential tenets of radicalism. Kirk's tenets strike me as more of a mixed bag. I should probably withhold judgment on them, since I'd need to read more by or about Kirk to even know what several of the tenets mean. One thing is clear, though: conservatism and radicalism are not an exhaustive set of alternatives. It looks like I am not a conservative according to his definition (I should hope not! (for the sake of his classification system more than for the sake of my self-image)), and I am certainly not a radical. Someone give me another set of tenets to assent to, as I'm obviously something. How about progressivism?

I've never been much of a meme-tapper, so for now I think I am content to await the coming months of discussion as Tollefsen, who tapped himself as an autonomous initiation to Right Reason, considers his positions on these issues in more detail.


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