Or is it emotions, i.e., feelings, as “the only certain knowledge”?
This post is not an argument in favor of “emotional knowledge” whatever that might be taken to mean. Nor is it about some theory of psychological health, involving the integration of all aspects of the human personality.
Instead, it is a momentary reflection on the degrading effects of skepticism, both moral and perhaps epistemological as well, on the ability of the convinced skeptic – if such a term is permissible – to actually engage in moral argument.
This was brought forcefully to mind by a YouTube video posted by Yorkshire on First Street Journal.
In this video we see a youthful British woman clad in sandals and a baggy red shift-like garment reaching to well below the knees, bemoaning the manner in which radical Moslems now inhabiting her old Luton neighborhood are protesting the arrest of the wife of Moslem who had set off a bomb in Stockholm.
What seems to really upset the British girl is the Moslem vitriol; their loudly antagonistic, hateful, and contemptuously hostile way of expressing themselves with respect to the institutions of both the culture and the country which has harbored and sheltered, and if news reports are right, often literally housed and fed them.
She seems especially disturbed by the marchers’ chant that the British police should burn in hell.
Attempting to engage one contemptuous burka clad protester in conversation, she’s informed that she looks naked; and is asked if she is trying to seduce.
Put on some clothes
She is told to “Go and put on some clothes”.
She becomes indignant, sputtering, “How you chose to dress like that, I chose to dress like this”.
The British woman then protests that her female critic is “judging” her.
The female marcher cheerfully admits that she is indeed judging the indignant and whiny western woman.
The westerner babbles that she should not be judged because she is not judging the Moslem woman; just as if the Moslem woman actually believed that she and the western woman were moral peers inhabiting the same moral plane.
“I don’t judge you, because I’m above that” says the western woman, while flailing her arms about for emphasis.
“Don’t you dare speak to me like that.” she rails. ‘This is my hometown as well”: again, implicitly referring to a moral framework based on respect for persons – even the stupid, weak, and misguided – which assumes a vision of living space and power “sharing”, at which the Moslems marchers obviously sneer.
The now emotionally wounded westerner continues her own feelings-jihad with, “I try my hardest to sympathize with people who may be different to me, and it’s this tiny minority …”
Ah yes, dear, please say again for the cameras how broadminded and accepting you are. I am sure that that will make the desired impression on the marchers. Once they are sure, you know, that you mean no harm and will respect them.
Hoping then to score rhetorical points along this line by appealing to a male marcher with the concept of “fairness”, she is informed in short order that it is indeed OK to shout that British police should burn in hell. Because you see, Britain has free speech. And further, in response to your question dear lady as to whether Koran-observant Moslems ought to respect the laws of the country that hosts them?
Well, the answer is, “No”.
Eventually, she encounters some scholar type who informs her Koranic-like chapter and verse that Moslems need not observe non-Moslem law in their host countries, and, that she is going to hell to boot.
She responds with, “It hurts me to think that you think that of me because you don’t really know me …” As if that would make a difference.
To which the scholar-type replies that he knows quite enough. He knows she is not a Moslem.
Well, she tried to be understanding and fair and considerate of everyone’s feelings. What else is there to say?
A little, apparently.
She sets the tone of the wrap-up of her video adventure with a voice-over wherein she announces she, “finds it sad that anyone would preach such a damning message”.
Then, tremulously facing the camera: “To sum up in words to tell you how I’m feeling now … I feel … gutted, completely gutted that this is happening ….”
Words failing her she goes silent; and saying no more, turns her head away from camera and toward the protesters.
A pause …. to let the profundity of the feelings sink in ….
Feelings … hurt … feelings … are her frame of reference. Along with mutual sympathy and respect for all differences; emphasizing the notion of a tolerant and accepting “fairness” among presumed “equals”.
But she is obviously not their equal. Not in physical fact clearly, and not according to the moral theory they announce.
And what does she have in her ideological armamentarium with which to respond to them?
Feelings. She has feelings. And she wants to tell you about her feelings and how hurtful you are being to them.
I guess she imagines the Moslems must care about her feelings. Or that they should care. It is almost as if she sees her feelings as some great scale by which moral principles ought to be weighed and evaluated.
But the Moslem marchers obviously don’t care. And I don’t see how they could care, given her pathetic intellectual performance. I certainly don’t care, and like her, I am a westerner myself.
Western culture, the postmodernist, modern liberal portion of it, is not only skeptical of religious dogmatism, it is skeptical (and increasingly outright nihilistic) regarding moral knowledge in general, and quite often about the possibility of solid or enduring knowledge concerning reality itself.
Positive, empirical science, the one practice that is still thought by some of this ideological stripe to yield what can be called certain knowledge, is held by these same persons to be value free, and incapable of yielding any “is” information, which leads to “ought” conclusions.
When it comes to moral questions then, all this kind of person can do when confronted by other some person having dogmatic and insistent views is, just as C.S. Lewis and others before him long ago observed, to remark on the state of their feelings.
Of course “way back when”, when Lewis laid out the implications of such relativism and skepticism, and then described its inevitably hapless and pathetic end-point, his reductio ad absurdum depiction had a certain flavor of the comically ironic about it. Certainly, and whatever their 20th century progressive opinion leader rhetoric, no broad segment of any society would actually embrace skepticism and relativism to a point wherein they would wind up quite so stupid and hapless in the face of a strident and mocking challenge to their assumed “values”, as we saw here?
Well, with enough propagandizing social affirmation and encouragement, they obviously can.
What then, Lewis and others presented as a warning via their careful exercises in hypothetical logic, and the inevitable conclusions of their chains of reasoning, this young woman is now living out in fact.
She embraced the skeptical milquetoast meta-values presented to her. She internalized them. She then lived comfortably among similar enabling others who had no motivation to rock or test their relativist boat, exposing its virtually non-existent freeboard, and lack of seaworthiness.
Now however, she confronts hostile and vehement others who, in an act of modern values sacrilege, sneer at her feelings and test her values with their life and death commitments.
And all she can do is announce to the world how THAT makes her feel; and theatrically shake her head with sadness as a means of trying to elevate herself to her lost honor and dignity. After all, she’s “above that” other stuff.
Yes … I guess she is. Just as long as those vestiges of western moral ideals more potent than the relativism and skepticism and values emotivism which she represents and lives out, continue to hold the moral barbarians somewhat at bay.
[Update note. I've made some wording changes in the first 2/3rds "narrative portion" of the post. Changing word order, tightening up slightly, checking punctuation and coherence, and doing the things real bloggers do when they write a draft before posting. The more analytical remarks about postmodern culture are unchanged.]