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The Misuse of “Let go of for and against.”


I get the feeling that those who subscribe to the telos of social justice honestly believe that they exemplify the personality trait of Openness, and are letting go of for and against as Jonathan Haidt recommended in his 2008 TED Talk. I also get the feeling that the way they’re doing is  the exact opposite, of what Haidt meant.

These two stanzas contain, I think, the deepest insights that have ever been attained into moral psychology. From the Zen master Sent-ts’an: “If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be ‘for’ or ‘against.’ The struggle between ‘for’ and ‘against’ is the mind’s worst disease.”

Since they believe themselves to be letting go of for and against – “unconstrained” by preconceptions or dogma; open-minded – it seems that, in their minds, it is self-evident that truth stands clear before them, which leads to rationalism, and later to force, as Haidt described in his 2012 lecture at Stanford University. This is the exact opposite of the meaning of “let go of for and against.”

“In the French Revolution, I’ve been stunned to read this, for the book that I’m writing, to read on the French Revolution. My beef with them is that they’re rationalists, they think that reason is a reliable way to find truth, it’s great in the natural sciences, but once you care about something, if you have passions, … David Hume said that “Reasoning is the slave of the passions and can pretend to no other office but to serve and obey them.”

“As far as I understand it most left-wing revolutions have ended with mass murder, because, you have this utopia, people don’t go along, because you got human nature incorrectly, they don’t go along, but you know you’re right because you have reason on your side, so you use force, and you use more force, and you use more force, and you end up like Cuba, or North Korea, or the other communist revolutions. It doesn’t work.”

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