As of this writing a comment I submitted to a blog post at Heterodox Academy is awaiting moderation.
The blog post is “Rescuing ‘Diversity’ from Affimative Action and Campus Activists.” I suggest you read that first.
My comment is below, with a couple minor edits to correct typos (I’m publishing this post from my phone, I’m without computer access at the moment, I hope it works):
The problems that surround diversity, affirmative action, and campus protests are symptoms of a deeper disease.Addressing the symptoms, the “ironies,” at face value amounts to putting band-aids on bullet wounds; it may palliate but it will not cure.
An increase in ideological diversity on campus and beyond would be a Band-Aid that might help, some, but it would not directly address the damage underneath that’s created by the real root cause of the problem.
Later in this comment I offer a concrete suggestion as to how we might begin to attack the real root cause of the problem in a meaningful way in the real world.
But first, the root cause.
Consider this simple thought experiment, inspired by an essay by Walter Williams:*
I play in a weekly poker game.
I lose every time.
Is the game fair?
There are two answers:
1) If everybody played by the rules then YES, the game IS fair.
2) The fact that I lose every time is self-evident proof that NO, the game is NOT fair, due to one or both of the following:
a. Something inherent to the game itself, or
b. Something in the way the other players are playing it
The more you lean toward answer two the worse you have the disease.
As Walter Williams points out, “an important part of an intelligent discussion about fairness and justice is the recognition that knowing the result of a process cannot establish whether there is fairness or justice.”
Outcome-based thinking is fallacious thinking. It is a symptom of the disease. It is cognitively distorted thinking like that described in “The Coddling of the American Mind.”
The disease itself, rightly understood, is the distinct, specific, identifiable way of thinking, the mentality, from which all of those symptoms surrounding diversity, and many other things, logically and inevitably follow.
That mentality is the product of two basic, fundamental aspects of human social psychology working in concert:
1) One of the two cognitive styles described by Arthur Herman in “The Cave and the Light: Plato versus Aristotle and the struggle for the Soul Western Civilization,” and
2) One of the two moral matrices described by Jon Haidt in “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.”
Specifically it is the blend of…
1) Plato’s idealistic rationalism in which everything that exists in the real world, including human civilization and the individual humans who inhabit it, is but a pale imitation of its ideal self, and
2) The moral matrix in which the ideal morality starts and ends with “care.”
Here’s the problem:
BOTH OF THOSE ARE UNMOORED FROM REALITY!
NEITHER of them is supported by the observed behaviors of actual real live human beings on earth.
In fact, BOTH of them are contradicted, proved false, refuted, by the events of history and by the findings of social science research.
Plato’s idealism is just that. It is thought experiment, a mental exercise, a philosophical diversion.
And as I presume everyone here knows, morality, rightly understood, is about far, FAR more than care and fairness.
Both of those aspects, are, in other words, delusions; beliefs that have no basis in fact.
Both of them belong on the list of “entrenched yet questionable orthodoxies” listed on Heterdox Academy’s “Problem” page.
Thomas Sowell was right, in his book “The Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles,” to call the mentality that follows from them “The Unconstrained Vision.” It is unconstrained by reality.
The degree to which a person’s thinking is based on those two aspects (Plato’s idealism and the one-foundation matrix) is the degree to which that person’s thinking is disconnected from reality.
The root cause of the problem is NOT a lack of ideological DIVERSITY in academia, it IS a lack of ideological REALTIY.
Wait, it gets worse.
Those delusions when combined with other more universal aspects of the human psyche like the confirmation bias, motivated reasoning, reason-based choice, and naïve realism, result in the mentality, the “vision,” in which it is the rightful duty, the mission, the purpose, of mankind to do everything within the power of abstract human reason to “fundamentally transform” Plato’s ideal, aka Rousseau’s “General Will,” into reality; to create “the good society” and “the new man.” It is pure WEIRD, rationalist, epistemic arrogance. And practically every time it has ever been tried it has ended badly, even in genocide.
It is, in a word, progressivism.
I use the word “progressivism” to distinguish the illiberal thing I’m describing from normal, healthy, Liberalism. To me, normal, healthy liberalism is created by the mix of the OTHER cognitive style described by Arthur Herman in “The Cave and the Light,” holistic Aristotelian empiricism, in combination with the individualizing-only (or primarily) mix of moral foundations. I see that sort of liberalism in people like Jonathan Haidt, Christina Hoff Summers, Camille Paglia, Jonathan Rauch, and Liz Joyner of “The Village Square,” to name a few.
To complete the story, conservatism is the blend of the Aristotelian cognitive style with the full suite of moral foundations. Moral foundations tend to mitigate Platonic idealism.
Anyway, the Illiberal mentality of Platonic idealism blended with the one-foundation moral matrix, and the way of perceiving, understanding, and reacting to the social world that corresponds with it, leads naturally and seemingly inevitably to problems surrounding diversity like ”disinvitations, censorship, resignations, campus disruptions, and comparable developments.”
When half the evolved psychological mechanisms of human social perception, awareness, and understanding (i.e., the binding foundations) are for all practical purposes unavailable to the intuitive elephant AND to the rational press secretary rider of one’s social cognition one is left with no logical alternative but to conclude that people who see the world differently must be, can ONLY be, afflicted with some sort of cognitive, psychological, or social disorder like racism, sexism, homophobia, failure of empathy, mean spiritedness, etc., etc., etc.. People who think differently are deranged; sick in the head. It’s obvious! It’s self evident! (so this mentality things)
And when one “knows” that it is the mission of humankind to deliberately and proactively bend the moral arc toward “the right side of history” (Plato’s idealism) and that people who think differently are self-evidently sick in the head, one feels not only justified, but morally obligated, to, by any means necessary (because one is, of course, in the right), prevent those “sick” people from participating in public discourse.
It bears repeating:
That mentality, that cognitive style, that way of perceiving, understanding, and reacting to the social world – consisting of the dual delusions of Plato’s idealism and the one-foundation intuitive elephant and rider – leads naturally and inevitably not only to problems surrounding diversity like ”disinvitations, censorship, resignations, campus disruptions, and comparable developments,” but also to far worse things like the physical assaults committed against the attendees of political rallies and even The Terror of the French Revolution. There’s truth in the old saying that conservatives think liberals are good people with bad ideas, but liberals think conservatives are bad people. Sowells books can be considered an anthology, or a pantheon, of examples of the mentality.
This explains the thinking behind the “Oberlin Rebellion,” the “Amherst Uprising,” the occurrences at Wesleyan and UCLA, and on and on.
Practically every Op Ed by a progressive about conservatism, in one way or another, displays evidence of that exact, and provably wrong, understanding of conservatism.
Go to Real Clear Politics on the web and read only the headlines. You’ll see that mentality on display clear as day.
The standard, beat like a dead horse, meme of the left about how conservatives are mean, racist, uncaring, regressive, stuck in the past, flyover country, rubes says far more about the cognitive and moral myopia of the left than it does about the people they hate. And make no mistake, hate it is, born of ignorance.
As Mark Twain reportedly said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
Most of that the mentality of illiberal progressivism “knows” about human nature and about conservatives “just ain’t so.”
And THAT is the problem.
The problem is not sloppy WRITING, it’s sloppy THINKING. It’s thinking that’s unmoored from reality.
That mentality is anathema, poison, a cancer, that corrodes and undermines the benefits – namely the “interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technologies, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible” (The Righteous Mind p. 313) – that become emergent social facts when we humans use “all the tools in the toolbox” (From the TED talk, “The Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives) that have been pre-wired into our brains by evolution.
It’s true “that minority students on most campuses are regularly subjected to awkward or inconsiderate remarks—and that they routinely suffer from being socially marginalized.”
That minority is what we call Conservatives. If conservatives filed complaints with the bias reporting systems that are cropping up on campuses around the country very time they experienced an anti-conservative microaggression the systems would be overwhelmed in less than a day.
The absence of intellectual diversity in the K16+ government-industrial education complex does not CREATE this problem. But boy oh boy does it exacerbate it.
Which brings me to the concrete example I mentioned earlier.
Do a web search for “National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula.”
Once there, click on “Sociocultural Context Domain” to expand the outline.
Once there, scroll down to “Standard Area: Sociocultural Diversity”
Within that section, scroll down to “Content Standard 2: Diversity among individuals”
“Students are able to (performance standards):
2.1 Discuss psychological research examining gender identity.
2.2 Discuss psychological research examining diversity in sexual orientation.
2.3 Compare and contrast gender identity and sexual orientation.
2.4 Discuss psychological research examining gender similarities and differences and the impact of gender discrimination.
2.5 Discuss the psychological research on gender and how the roles of women and men in societies are perceived.
2.6 Examine how perspectives affect stereotypes and treatment of minority and majority groups in society.
2.7 Discuss psychological research examining differences in individual cognitive and physical abilities.”
I can see it in my mind’s eye right now: Some of you Heterodox Academy folks are rolling your eyes and thinking “I can’t believe it. It’s worse than I thought.”
To which I say, I KNOW, RIGHT??!!
PURE PROGRESSIVE INDOCTRINATION, is an official part of the National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula!!!!
Anybody (who has managed to read this far into this comment) have any suggestions for a different sort of discussion that might be better for that particular section of the National Standards for High School Psychology?
Anyone? Show of hands?
That’s RIGHT!!! How about, right there in the section on individual diversity, creating a “Content Standard” for THE MOST IMPORTANT TYPE OF DIVERSITY OF ALL!!!
It’s a PERFECT spot for it.
I’ll even throw in a few suggested learning objectives.
Learning objective: Students should be able to describe and give a simple real-life example of the following:
1) Intuition comes first, strategic reasoning follows (Moral psychology principle #1)
2) Morality binds and blinds (Moral psychology principle #2)
3) Reason is for winning, not truth finding (The Argumentative Theory)
Learning objective: Students should be able to name and briefly describe each of the moral foundations, from which the aforementioned intuitions follow.
Learning objective: Students should be able to name the moral foundations that underlie liberalism, conservatism, and libertarianism.
Get the idea?
Other learning objectives for other high school subjects:
History or civics: Explain which moral foundations underlie the French and American Revolutions. Are they different or the same? Why?
English or literature: Explain which moral foundations you see behind the behavior of for example, Shylock, or Atticus Finch.
Economics: Which moral foundations seem to have driven the ideas of Keynes? Hayek? Adam Smith? Paul Krugman?
* Credit to Walter Williams for this thought experiment: http://townhall.com/columnists/walterewilliams/2015/02/11/fairness-and-justice-n1954848