D. C. McAllister just posted an article entitled “America, You Have No Right to Judge Donald Trump” over at PJ Media. Setting aside the question of “rights” for the moment, I have to admit that she makes some good points. Here’s one of the better ones:
Those who are complaining about Trump today have no basis for their moral outrage. That’s because their secular amoral worldview rejects any basis for that moral judgment. Any argument they make against the “immorality” of Trump is stolen, or at least borrowed for expediency, from a religious worldview they have soundly rejected.
Exactly! It’s amazing that the religious apologists the Left despises can see immediately that they “have no basis for their moral outrage,” and yet the “enlightened” people on the Left never seem to get it. You can say what you want about the “religious worldview,” but a God that threatens to burn you in hell for billions and trillions of years unless you do what he says seems to me a pretty convincing “basis” for “acting morally.” The “enlightened” have never come up with anything of the sort. One typically finds them working themselves into high dudgeon of virtuous indignation without realizing that the “basis” for all their furious anathemas is nothing but thin air.
The reason for their latest outburst of pious outrage is threadbare enough. They claim that Trump is “immoral” because he engaged in “locker room talk” about women in what he supposed was a private conversation. Are you kidding me?! These people have just used their usual bullying tactics to impose a novel version of sexual morality on the rest of us that sets the old one recommended by a “religious worldview” on its head. Now, all of a sudden, we are to believe that they’ve all rediscovered their inner prude. Heaven forefend that anyone should dare to think of women as “objects!”
Puh-lease! I’d say the chances that 99 out of 100 of the newly pious MSM journalists who have been flogging this story have never engaged in similar talk or worse are vanishingly small. The other one is probably a eunuch. As for the “objectification of women,” I’m sorry to be a bearer of bad tidings, but that’s what men do. They are sexually attracted to the “object” of a woman’s body because it is their nature to be so attracted. That is how they evolved. It is highly unlikely that any of the current pious critics of “objectification” would be around today to register their complaints if that particular result of natural selection had never happened.
And what of Trump? Well, if nothing else, he’s been a very good educator. He’s shown us what the elites in the Republican Party really stand for. I personally will never look at the McCains, Romneys, and Ryans of the world in quite the same way. At the very least, I’m grateful to him for that.
8 thoughts on “Trump and Sex Talk: The Left Rediscovers its Inner Prude”
There’s a certain level of cognitive dissonance provoked by observing someone contradict their own previously stated arguments. Enough dissonance that I felt it necessary to chip in for once.
You’ve stated previously within this blog that you consider morality to not be a “thing in itself”, to quote the philospher’s phrase, but a series of emotional responses put in place by evolutionary processes. Something, to oversimplfy, written into human brains than into the nature of reality. This is a point I’m in large agreement with: I consider humans to have evolved a sense of “moral aesthetics” to allow them to live as social animals, something you yourself have elaborated on at length here. I’m therefore curious – if those on “the left” you lump together into one big out-group, and speak pejoratively of, are therefore acting upon their own moral urges, then how can they be “amoral” as the quote you so approve of says? Isn’t it simply more parsimonious just to say that they have values with which you disagree? Having read through your blog back a ways, I had come to the conclusion that you had enough knowledge of certain biases, such as in-group/out-group preference and motivated reasoning, to not fall prey to the trap of believing that those who possess different values are necessarily “immoral”, and yet that’s precisely the sense I’m getting here. I’m aware that knowledge of biases is not necessarily a protection from them, but I guess I was hoping for better.
Regarding the non-religious versus religious underpinnings of ethical systems: I don’t buy the canard that a secular worldview leads to moral relativism (and I don’t think you do, if you’re being consistent with your arguments – certain things will always “feel wrong” to non-sociopaths). Not because the secular worldview has a rationally defensible foundation – it’s based on values resting upon emotions, after all – but because this gives too much credit to religious ethical systems. Even they are ultimately based upon values, derived from emotions derived from our sense of moral aesthetics, and centered around texts with no empirically verifiable basis of their own, rather the subjective (dare I say relative) opinion of their intepreters. If a holy man tells me I must kill multitudes or be tortured for all eternity, it does not necessarily make it so (forgive my simplicity, but is this even “moral” behaviour anyway, particularly if my moral emotions are telling me otherwise?).
Regarding the specific behaviour of one of your presidential candidates (the epic contest between Corrupt Entitled Woman versus Braying Entitled Jackass, my sympathies): are you really making the argument that because the people reporting this story may have acted in a way (I presume) we would both find obnoxious aimed at any women we care about, that it is therefore permissible for the seeker of the highest office in the land to do the same? I’m guessing, being a moral being, that you care what your Head of State is like behind closed doors, for one thing. I’m also guessing, as the holder of a system of -ethics- that you care what social signals are sent to the general population, as it may affect their behaviour. There is a rational ethical argument, I would argue, to be made that this sort of behaviour is not be condoned in public life, if you value certain things, such as female safety from harrasment or sexual assault, and believe that the behaviour of a high-status individual may influence this. If you don’t value those things, of course, I’m not sure where to proceed from there, but I’ll assume for the moment that you do.
Oh, and you’re quite correct that objectification of the female form is an evolved tendency in men. Males have lots of tendencies given to them by evolution – it isn’t necessarily a great idea, if you value such things as personal autonomy and freedom from violence (sexual or otherwise) to give them all complete free reign. Can I finally point out that, in case it hasn’t quite sunk in yet, that a conversation between men discussing a women’s body is one thing, but boasting about sexually assaulting women is, I would venture, another thing entirely?
An honest question: is it your policy to delete all criticism?
No, it’s not. However, I do have a day job, and it happens to be very demanding at the moment. As a result I occasionally neglect my blog. I apologize for the long wait. You should be able to post without approval now.
Not exactly. What I’ve said is that the root cause of morality lies in the emotional responses you speak of. The final product is the result of those emotional responses as consciously interpreted by creatures with large brains – ourselves.
I think it’s clear from many previous posts that I am an atheist. Therefore, the fact that I quote a statement by a Christian hardly implies that I agree with everything the Christian says. What I do agree with, and I think I make it clear in the post, is the claim that “Those who are complaining about Trump today have no basis for their moral outrage.” The point of including the quote was to show that religious people can usually pick up on that fact immediately, whereas perpetually outraged leftists who have jettisoned religion seem entirely oblivious to the fact.
I did not elaborate on the term “amoral” in the quote because I do not consider leftists amoral, nor do I consider them moral relativists. My problem with leftists is that the “moral laws” they are constantly trying to foist on the rest of us are usually of recent origin, and represent nothing whatsoever more significant than their personal emotional whims. Clearly, I don’t believe that makes them absolutely immoral, because I don’t believe in the existence of moral absolutes. However, I do find their behavior irrational, and extremely annoying. That is nothing but a “mere whim” of mine, but I think there are many people besides myself who don’t appreciate living in the midst of irrational moralistic bullies. All I am saying in my post is that I agree with them, and they’re not alone.
Nowhere in my post have I made the claim that leftists are immoral. My own personal antipathies hardly constitute absolute moral claims. It would be far more reasonable to point out that your use of the term “better” demonstrates that you, and not I, have “fallen prey to the trap” you refer to. The fact that I cannot claim that leftists are absolutely immoral does not mean that I have to like them, or that I have to accept their moral nostrums, or that I can’t propose alternative moral nostrums of my own, assuming that I make no claim to represent anything more significant than my own emotional whims.
I agree that a secular worldview does not lead to moral relativism, and have repeated as much over and over again on this blog. I have also repeated over and over again that I do not believe that the whims of imaginary super beings in the sky are capable of rendering any rule or collection thereof “absolutely Good.”
As for the question of whether Trump’s behavior was “good” or “bad,” I intended no judgment on the question one way or the other, and my personal feelings about the matter are neither here nor there. I am all in favor of coming up with a coherent set of moral rules, but only based on a rational understanding of why those rules are desirable, the nature of the evolved emotional responses the rules are based on, a more rational and democratic way of altering moral rules than
the current bullying tactics of a group of pious prigs, etc. We are still very far from having reached that level “moral progress.” It would also be nice, IMHO, to apply the rules consistently once we have them, rather than applying one set of rules to people with whom one disagrees on political matters, such as, for example, Donald Trump, and an entirely different set of rules to people with whom one agrees on political matters, such as, for example, JFK, Robert Kennedy, Edward Kennedy, Martin Luther, LBJ, and Bill Clinton, whose sins, based on conventional moral standards, are certainly comparable and arguably much worse in some cases.
I do not have a “system of ethics,” contrary to what you claim in your comment. I am subject to moral emotions and occasionally wear them on my sleeve, in common with the rest of my species. That fact is in no way “inconsistent” with my philosophy as long as I don’t try to represent such whims as possessing some kind of independent authority or legitimacy.
There is no such thing as a “rational ethical argument,” for the simple reason that, as set forth in this and many other posts, there is no logical basis for making such arguments. The very term “rational ethical argument” implies the existence of Good and Evil as independent things in themselves. They have no such existence. If you want to inform me about the nature of your personal whims that might reasonably included under the rubric of morality, by all means do so. If you mean to imply that they have some authority or legitimacy beyond the fact that they happen to be your personal whims, however, I’m afraid I can’t agree.
Once again, you are wandering off into a swamp of absolute moral judgments. There is absolutely no legitimate basis for the claim that boasting about sexually assaulting women, or actually sexually assaulting women, for that matter, is morally worse than discussing a woman’s body, independently of the subjective moral whims of individuals. If you disagree, by all means, explain to the rest of us the basis of your belief to the contrary. If you’re asking me what my personal whims happen to be on the matter, I can only say that my moral emotions would strongly motivate me to restrain a man I found violently raping a woman, and I would “feel in my bones” that the man was evil. I assume that you would feel something similar. However, neither the feelings of a single individual, nor any collection thereof, can render any act either absolutely evil or absolutely good.
Apologies, I made the mistake of looking on your blog from another computer and made an incorrect assumption.
I think my point was that secular people have the same “basis” that non-secular people do – individually held values, and the arguments, rational or irrational that flow from them. Just because non-secular people say they have an imaginary friend to back up their ethical system doesn’t change this.
My formal training in philosophy is essentially nil, but I’m fairly sure that at least some of the ethical principles commonly seen on the left have a fairly long tradition (but please don’t ask me to go on Wikipedia to refresh my memory on Greek philosophers to back that up – I have a job too). Also, given that the politcal left in any country is usually a fairly broad church, so to speak, you might be surprised that there are many “leftists” in many countries who would agree with you about the irrationality, particularly at the moment. In fact it’s a major thing in many circles now – I’m pretty sure you know what the results of Googling “regressive left” are. In the defence of the “leftists” though, I should point out that virtue signalling, expressions of piety and taboo enforcement (or any other annoying moralistic behaviours) are not in any way restricted to any one political philosophy; it’s often just observer bias at work – it’s far easier to see them in action when the person talking holds values you disagree with.
You can have a rational argument based upon something that you value. That value may only live in your head and in the heads of others, but it is still possible to reason over it. It doesn’t require supernatural, Manichean forces to form its foundation.
I think this is probably where we’re diverging: you seem (and please correct me if I’m wrong) to hold the view that to be rational, an ethical framework has to be rational all the way down to the root. Given that that can only occur if it’s based upon something platonically “good” (a deity or animus of ‘goodness’), and given that there’s no evidence of such a thing exists (and is logically incoherent anyway) then logically any ethical system claiming to be ethical is irrational. All that’s left is moral “whims”, a holdover from our heritage as social animals. Anything else is useless.
This seems akin to arguing that we should disregard all art because beauty is not an objective “thing”. My counterpoint to this is that it is still possible (in fact it is only possible) to be ethically rational from the starting point of the things we value. It isn’t irrational or useless to do so; quite the opposite in fact.
I said it was different, not worse (although I do feel it was worse, as I hold certain values) – it adds extra moral factors to consider. Pretty important ones, considering who said them.
“I think my point was that secular people have the same “basis” that non-secular people do – individually held values, and the arguments, rational or irrational that flow from them. Just because non-secular people say they have an imaginary friend to back up their ethical system doesn’t change this.”
In fact you’re missing the point. The point is not that one basis or the other is “superior.” The point is that, because they feel secure in their own imagined basis, religious people have no problem seeing that secular moralists have none whatsoever. The secular moralists themselves are so fond of indulging in orgies of virtuous indignation and joyously hurling down pious anathemas on the rest of us that they are blithely unaware of the fact that their claims to moral legitimacy are grounded in a vacuum.
“My formal training in philosophy is essentially nil, but I’m fairly sure that at least some of the ethical principles commonly seen on the left have a fairly long tradition (but please don’t ask me to go on Wikipedia to refresh my memory on Greek philosophers to back that up – I have a job too).”
So what? The fact that they have a “long tradition” is hardly a reason for taking them seriously. Greek philosophers were at somewhat of a disadvantage in not being aware of the fact of evolution by natural selection, and its relevance to the question of morality, don’t you think?
“In the defence of the “leftists” though, I should point out that virtue signalling, expressions of piety and taboo enforcement (or any other annoying moralistic behaviours) are not in any way restricted to any one political philosophy…”
The fact that lots of other people do the same thing is not a defense.
“You can have a rational argument based upon something that you value. That value may only live in your head and in the heads of others, but it is still possible to reason over it. It doesn’t require supernatural, Manichean forces to form its foundation.”
There can be no “foundation” for things, such as good and evil, that have no independent existence.
“This seems akin to arguing that we should disregard all art because beauty is not an objective “thing”.”
It is not at all akin. There is a huge difference between a subjective appreciation of art and the delusion that Good and Evil exist, not just as imaginary entities conjured up by subjective emotions that you have no right whatsoever to impose on others, but as real things that you have a perfect right to force down everyone else’s throat.
I would maintain that it is not only true, but obviously true that the latter is the way in which almost all secular leftists perceive Good and Evil. It’s quite true that religious people suffer from the same delusion. In their case, however, defeating their arguments is merely a matter of pointing out that their God doesn’t exist. In the case of the secular persons one typically finds on the left of the ideological spectrum, OTH, one points out that their claims to moral legitimacy are baseless and irrational.
Apologies for the late reply. Life gets in the way.
Well, forgive me, but it sounds as if one side is “superior” in that paragraph.
In any case: religious moralists are mistaken but rational, secular moralists are mistaken and irrational, got the point. It’s also still wrong. Moral intuition always comes first, regardless of whether it is based upon values influenced by enlightenment-era secular liberalism or the cultural values found in bronze-age religious texts and the communities that arise around them. They’re also both grounded in the exact same “vacuum”, the one between our ears.
This may be my own values talking, but I’d like to, on a whim, point out that at least the secular side nominally contains values like free enquiry, empiricism and skepticism that at least provide for the possibility of self-correction when those values prove destructive to their holders. Whatever destructive or malign values are found in holy books are notoriously more difficult to dislodge. If you value your own welfare, then the current crop of secular “moralists” (I’m presuming your ire here is directed at the New Atheists, correct?) are tremendously less likely to get you hurt. The most destructive political movements of the last century, became so because they took on the features of religious thinking (doctrine, received wisdom, cults of personality) and abandoned debate and self-reflection. I’ve seen nothing to suggest the NA have abandoned those values, even if they do come across as crass on a frequent basis.
Oh, I agree. I mentioned this as I thought you were speaking about the newcomer status of certain left-wing values pejoratively, as if being a “recently invented” value reduced its legitimacy (apologies if this was not the case). I thought I would take the route of pointing out the incorrect factual basis of this, rather than pointing out that newer value systems at least had the benefit of things like modern scientific knowledge to draw upon.
I can tell you’ve managed to avoid certain internet forums if you think that there aren’t places you can go, to have someone ram their intepretation of what the “correct” version of a particular art-form is down your throat. If so, I envy your sheltered existence.
You can draw a direct parallel between aesthetics and morality. Both are parts of human experience that exist because of evolved neural architecture within the human brain. Both likely have evolved as a integrated package of different processes. Both have been shaped by human culture into various schools of thought and interpretations, have their gatekeepers, their treasured texts. Both strongly shape human behaviour. Both are “unreal”, in a sense, but utterly convincing illusions, even to those who know otherwise. They even use a lot of the same language.
All I intended to say with this post was that modern Leftists lack a legitimate basis for their moral judgments of Trump, that religious people are often aware of that fact, whereas the Leftists who make such moral judgments are not, and that those who condemned Trump apply their “moral rules” selectively, depending on whether the individual in question belongs to their ingroup or not. By “reading between the lines” you have apparently divined that my “true intent” was to claim that religious people have a more “rational” basis for their moral rules than secular Leftists (that was neither my intent nor does it reflect my opinion), that I don’t like or support the New Atheists (completely wrong), etc. Apparently you agree with me on the main themes I’ve listed, which begs the question of why you are inventing imaginary “opinions” of mine, apparently just so you can disagree with me. If you actually do disagree with any of them, by all means, tell me why, and I will be happy to discuss the matter with you. If you just don’t like Trump, that’s fine, too. Just say so and leave it at that.