What is the root or basis of the battle? Knowing that answer can make us wise about the tactics of the left.
The root is epistemological and psychological: truth vs. ideology and facts vs. feelings.
Is there such a thing as truth or facts? Do we let ideology warp truth? Do we let feelings triumph over truth and facts?
The left employs six tactics to win the battle.
The first is to deny that facts and truth exist. Nietzsche:
Everything is Interpretation: … Against those who say “There are only facts,” I say, “No, facts are precisely what there is not, only interpretations.” We cannot establish any fact in itself. Perhaps it is folly to want to do such a thing. (Quoted in Louis P. Pojman, Classics of Philosophy, Oxford UP, 1998, pp. 1015-16, emphasis original.)
This is hyper-skepticism that has morphed nowadays into postmodernism. It’s called perspectivism. We have only our point of view or worldview. Now let’s fight for our corner, not so much for the truth.
Postmodernism is dominant today. It’s powerful. If we deny facts, then the traditionalists’ positions crumble. It’s all about challenging the old ways – or truths – that have stood the test of time.
The second tactic is to deny common sense, which looks a lot like Nietzsche’s hyper-skepticism. Being somewhat sheltered in my own Christian world before I reached grad school at a lowly and unpretentious state university in the UC system, I was shocked at how many times I heard the intellectuals sneer at common sense. “Oh, studies contradict common sense!” (An older student in one of my classes just recently repeated it, too.) It’s obvious why they deny it. Common sense trumps their ideology.
What is common sense? It’s the convergence of the five senses as we take in the physical data and perceive the world and eventually draw conclusions from the perceptions. And then, since all of humankind has common sense – in common – we can work together to form a consensus (note the stem -sens- in consensus).
However, the basis of hyper-skepticism is the denial that the five senses are accurate to begin with. In Phil. 101 we learn about Descartes. In his first Meditation, he imagined a figure down the street in the fog. Is that a man walking toward me? I think it is, but maybe not. My senses of sight and hearing are confused. It was a lamppost, after all. So my five senses can’t be trusted. (Never mind that Descartes invented an extreme example, and in most cases, like driving down the road, the five senses are reliable.) Descartes went for rationalism or knowledge apart from empirical data.
Hume is the king of skeptics. Our knowledge of the observable world of nature – or cause and effect – is based on custom or habit. We’re just used to things; we’ve grown accustomed to them. Our empirical knowledge – the data perceived by the five senses – is not based on a secure foundation.
Common sense is thrown out with the bath water, if there was a baby to begin with.
The third tactic: the left invented political correctness to win the battle, while the right values truth. Here are the two sides boiled down:
1. If you’re truthful and factual, you’ll be hurtful.
2. Don’t be hurtful.
3. Therefore, don’t be truthful and factual.
1. If you’re truthful and factual, you’ll be hurtful.
2. Truth and facts are better than hurt feelings.
3. Therefore, be truthful and factual (even if it hurts).
An example is women on the frontlines, where bullets fly by the soldiers’ and marines’ heads. From observing the Olympics, we can deduce that mankind at the top of his game is faster and stronger than womankind at the top of her game in the same events like pole vault, high jump, rowing, or the 100-meter sprint. These are biological, physical facts we can observe with our own eyes. So quite sensibly, the IOC separates men from women.
Now let’s imagine a platoon of twenty soldiers, ten men at the top of their training and ten women at the top of their training. In the very most difficult of situations, most of the women will not be able to keep up with most of the men. The Olympics tell me so. Therefore, isn’t it obvious that we should keep the two sexes separate and women away from the most difficult of scenarios?
However, the problem is that women who want to serve in combat – however few they are – will have hurt feelings, not to mention the feelings of congresswomen who support them, if the Joint Chiefs deny them the opportunity. Further, behind the denial of biological and physical facts is ideology of equality, not only of the intellect, but also of the world of observable nature, the source of scientific conclusions.
So ideology and feelings must thwart the facts or biological truth.
Going along with the third tactic, the fourth one is to call names. How many times have we heard these pejoratives: homophobe, Islamophobe, sexist, racist, intolerant, speciesist, and ignorant! (I got called this last one recently, until I was able to steer the classroom discussion toward the basic biological facts in the differences between mankind and womankind.) It is difficult to have one’s feelings hurt and especially to have an ideology crumble before the facts, so name-calling is an emotional reaction to maintain the ideology. I sympathize – but I won’t cave in to it.
The fifth tactic is to invent sensitivity training classes. If you say truthful things – if truth can be discovered or is even a value these days – then you must be hauled into a sensitivity training class to get yourself re-educated. I had a discussion with a dean about who is going to win the ideological battle – the professional eggshell-walkers who intend to drag the rest of us on to their eggshells, or will reasonable people like him and me refuse to play their game and refuse to submit to their value of feelings over facts? Maybe we should have hyper-sensitivity training. “Don’t be so danged sensitive!” we should tell these students.
A Cal Berkeley grad, he stared at me for a few seconds, processing my words. I think he saw it. The discussion ended well. He’s been good to me ever since (so far, because I have lost jobs before for my views).
The sixth tactic is to go to the courts. The left gets frustrated with the slow, stupid sheep called Americans. Our fellow citizens believe, almost by nature and by virtue of being descendants of pioneers, in common sense and in knowledge derived from the physical world. This is called American pragmatism, and thank God for it (I say). However, law schools are filled with intellectuals who have drunk deeply from Nietzsche, Hume, and Descartes and other hyper-skeptics. Law schools have turned into left-wing indoctrination seminaries: ideology over facts. This is especially disconcerting because the courts are supposed to try the facts, and often they do. Nonetheless, the judges strike down the will of the slow, stupid sheep by placing ideological considerations first, when it suits them. Article Three (judicial branch) is slapping around Article One (legislative branch).
So who is going to win?
Conservatism can win if its believers first understand the battle. The Battle for America’s Soul is epistemological and psychological (emotions and feelings); the fight boils down to truth vs. feelings and facts vs. ideology.
Second, we can win if we show how truth and facts should be the basis of our ideology and feelings. Life is better if our beliefs correspond to the real world – the correspondence theory of truth. It is (or should be) the moving force of our perception of morality founded on fact, the root of our sensible policies. Thus can we meet the emotional and intellectual needs of humans and win the policy fights.
Third, conservatism can win if we fearlessly – in the face of the sneers – promote more American common sense or pragmatism, which asks what works. It’s the source of our cutting-edge greatness, our entrepreneurship, free-market capitalism; the source of our inventions and advanced technology, like cell phones and space exploration; the root of our law courts founded on facts (one hopes).
No wonder leftists sneer at American common sense. They lose if it wins.
In national policy, as distinct from family life, facts and truth – however hurtful to some – must come first. Then we can win every time.
This article updates the version posted on American Thinker, on 8/29/16.