Religions and ideologies





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction
Aphorisms: religion and ideology
Stupidity
A myth: prose fiction
Boycotting fairness: Sheffield Humanist Society
Religions and ideologies and active harm
The dangers of non-resistance to active harm
The dangers of tolerance
What is an ideology?
Thesis and anti-thesis

Introduction

Threats to the mind are of no account to many people. If beliefs are deluded but the people holding them are 'harmless' (not terrorists, not advocates of indiscriminate violence which threaten the body), then this is of no account. I regard threats to the mind as well as to the body as important, as far from harmless, as threats to be resisted. 'Threats to mind and body:' the phrase is a concise way of expressing the conviction that harmful forces may threaten not just the body, by killing and injuring, but the mind, by threatening free thought and free expression,  artistic expression as well as intellectual expression.

There are still old-fashioned atheists who regard Christianity as the most harmful  force in the world today, ignoring the need for  {modification} of attitude.  In the twentieth century, fascism and Stalinism and other forms of communism completely eclipsed Christianity as a threat to body and mind. There are still old-fashioned atheists who overlook the many, many impressive Christians and followers of other religions. Their assumption that non-religious people must always be superior to religious people could be called childish, but I use the word 'unformed.'

In the twenty-first century, Christianity is negligible as a threat to mind and body whilst the dangers of  Islamism have become obvious, to anyone with any sense, and  {adjustment} is needed to recognize these changing realities. But it isn't enough to recognize the chief threats, there has to be quantification of the threats. Even radical, terror-supporting Islamism is obviously far less of a threat to body than Nazism in the past. Its outrages are horrific but generally localized. No Islamic state or terrorist organization has perpetrated a fraction of the atrocities inflicted by Nazi Germany, again, despite the horrific atrocities they have inflicted, in  part because  radical Islamism generally seems to be incompatible with highly developed economies, social organizations and scientific and technological expertise.  When an Islamic state is an exception to this - Iran is the prime example now  - then the potential threat to the body is very great. If ISIS did have the power and the resources, then its atrocities would equal those of Nazi Germany.

On this page, I criticize not just the religious but some of their opponents, such as some humanists (supporters of groups such as the British Humanist Association.) To see through some illusions and forms of stupidity is no guarantee that someone will not be subject to other  illusions and forms of stupidity.  Illusion and stupidity aren't evaded too easily. A humanist who can see through the arguments intended to show that the gospel records are largely reliable, that Jesus rose again, that prayer works and is worthwhile (although not, nowadays, that praying for good weather works and is worthwhile), may well be in the grip of delusions more harmful  than any of these.

In various places in this site, I argue against pacifism. A Christian who believes that Jesus rose again may well recognize the harsh realities that make pacifism unworkable and disastrous in some circumstances, may have delusions about prayer but recognize that to defeat Nazi Germany or the Taliban requires practical action. The humanist who airily dismisses the need for action by force of arms in some circumstances is suffering from a more severe form of delusion. The believer's common sense and good sense may be left unaffected by theological illusion.

The strengths of this age co-exist with stupidities. The stupidities of previous ages were different but often as bad or worse. 

David Hume, the 18th century philosopher, the greatest and most influential of English-speaking philosophers and a very versatile  writer,  was born in Edinburgh, studied at Edinburgh University, was a librarian at Edinburgh University and lived for much of his life in Edinburgh - but he didn't  secure a chair at the university.  Edinburgh ministers petitioned the town council not to give the chair to him on account of his atheistic views.

This is from Richard Wollheim's introduction to 'Hume on Religion,' which contains the classic 'Dialogues concerning Natural Religion' and other texts, including 'Of Miracles' (Section x, An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding.)

'Looking back upon eighteenth-century Edinburgh, we tend so readily to think of it as bathed in that soft 'Athenian' light, in that glow of radiant liberalism, which distinguished its middle and later years, that we quite forget at how narrow a remove it stood, both in time and place, from fanaticism and intellectual barbarism.'

This was David Hume's attitude to illusion and ignorance and people in the grip of illusion and ignorance:

' ... it might be possible to liberate them from this illusion or that, but it would only be replaced by another. 'In a future age,' he wrote, a propos of the doctrine of transubstantiation [the belief that during the Catholic mass, the bread and wine are transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ, without any alteration of appearances] 'it will probably become difficult to persuade some nations, that any human two-legged creature could ever embrace such principles.' Then with characteristic wryness he added, 'And it is a thousand to one, but these nations themselves shall have something full as absurd in their own creed ... '

Many, many Catholics and other Christians have been and are not just people of good sense but outstanding, to give just one example, the Christian people who sheltered Jews facing extermination, at enormous risk to themselves. A belief in transubstantiation can co-exist with clear-sighted views - and humane views, as well as great abilities in the sphere of practical action. Many, many secularists, who can see the absurdity of transubstantiation  have views which are ridiculous and stupid.

Aphorisms: religion and ideology

From my page Aphorisms which gives most of the aphorisms I've written. These were written at a time when my own loss of Christian faith was not so many years in the past. Now, although I'm just as resolutely non-Christian, I'm far more aware of the harmfulness of many non-Christian views.

The great achievements of religious architecture, painting, sculpture and literature are no evidence for religion but evidence that people with artistic gifts may have far less talent for critical thinking.

This world is inexhaustible and unfathomable. We need speculate about no other.

Mystics who are 'deep' are out of their depth.

Humanity can be explained only partly in natural terms but not at all in supernatural terms.

The horrific imperfections of the world foster courage and ingenuity. Why not skepticism?

DEUS ILLUMINATIO IGNIS FATUUS

The understandable fear of becoming lost, of leaving behind roads and paths, helps to explain the refusal to follow an argument wherever it leads, the reassurance of religions and ideologies.

The Christian revelation has taken away from life the mystery which for non-Christians remains. For skeptics more than for Christians, this is a mysterious world and sometimes a magical one.

The Christian God has become softer and gentler, a God who's 'only human,' although no more so than the old vengeful God.

My atheism is far from being the most important thing about me, otherwise there would be a strong linkage between me and the atheist Stalin.

To know that someone is a Christian or an atheist tells me almost nothing about the person.

Self-evident untruths and half-truths will always be popular.

Honest people may well reinterpret their lives at intervals as drastically as totalitarian regimes reinterpret their own history

I detest your ideology and the ideologies you detest.

Oppose mindless tolerance as well as mindless intolerance.

'The later can be better than the earlier.' There's more consolation in this than in all the religions of the world. It may even console us for the existence of those religions.

If the world were imperfect in the way that Christians or communists suppose, Christianity or communism might be true, but it's imperfect in a way that refutes them. And so for other theisms and ideologies

The world, like some faces, can look better seen in a distorting mirror.

Stupidity

'For Christianity and all existing creeds Hume had, and always displayed, the greatest contempt: and he used the attribution of orthodoxy as a standard form of abuse. Writing for instance, to his old friend, the Moderate minister, Hugh Blair, Hume referred to the English as 'relapsing fast into the deepest stupidity, Christianity and ignorance.' (From Richard Wollheim's  introduction to 'Hume on Religion,' which includes 'Dialogues concerning Natural Religion' and other essays by David Hume.)

When Hume wrote these words, and for many centuries before, stupidity took the form of Christianity more often than not in this country and the rest of Europe.  In a largely post-Christian age, stupidity more often takes other, secular, forms. Many of the English, and other nations, have relapsed fast into the deepest stupidity and ignorance which are completely unreligious. Even so, the prevalence of Christian stupidity in the United States can't be ignored.

One of the post-Christian stupidities - there are many more - is extreme hedonistic stupidity. A sticker seen on a car near here: 'If it's not fun, don't do it.' (The temptation was strong to go home, print out a large poster  and stick it on one of the car doors, the poster containing just these words:  'If removing this poster isn't fun, don't remove it.)

'The  sentiment of the sticker is ridiculous, infantile in its view of the world, hopelessly unformed and  mindless. The defence that it's nothing but a little fun in itself won't work. There are many, many people who believe it, believe in it, or something ridiculous and infantile  but less stupidly ridiculous and infantile. If very many people followed it - but that  would be impossible - then societies of any worth would be impossible. These societies would certainly be incapable of defending themselves.

Religious people have included many, many mawkish sentimentalists, but they have often  had a view of the world which is strenuous, which recognizes duties, such as caring for the sick even when the duties involved no gain for the carer, let alone 'fun.' The objections to 'If it's not fun, don't do it' are obvious and include the objection that when people who believe this fall sick, they will be looked after by people with very different views. Secular views, like religious views, may be clueless, secularists, like religious people, may be clueless.

Richard Wollheim, on Hume's attitude to the ignorant: 'He was convinced that the ignorant ... would always have their superstitions: it might be possible to liberate them from this illusion or that, but it would only be replaced by another. 'In a future age,' he wrote, à propos of the doctrine of transubstantiation [to people unfamiliar with the Catholic doctrine, the notion that during the Mass, the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ - not symbolically but in actual fact the body and blood of Christ] 'it will probably become difficult to persuade some nations, that any human two-legged creature could ever embrace such principles.' Then with characteristic wryness he added, 'And it is a thousand to one, but these nations themselves shall have something full as absurd in their own creed, to which they will give a most implicit and most religious assent.'

Since Hume wrote, the creeds have usually been of an informal kind. Stupidity has often been too vague-minded for inclusion in a creed. Hume seems not to have anticipated the dangers and stupidity of some non-Christian and post-Christian beliefs, which now dominate our world. 

A myth: prose fiction

The prose fiction here is about the beginning of the end of religion and the beginning of a secular view of the world - a process nowhere near completion, of course.  It's intended to be a contribution to a modern mythology. In his introduction to ‘Plato: Selected Myths,’ taken from the Platonic dialogues, Catalin Partenie writes, ‘The term ‘myth’ is a transcription of the ancient Greek muthos...but what the ancient Greeks called muthos is quite different from what we and the media nowadays call a ‘myth.’ For the ancient Greeks - at least in the archaic phase of their civilization - a myth was a story that unveiled reality, hence a true story...between this archaic version of myth and ours stands Plato: for him a myth is, taken as a whole, false, but there is truth in it also...myth may be false in its fantastical details, but it may mirror the truth.’ Plato ‘opposes myth to philosophical argument’ but nevertheless he ‘envelops his own philosophy in fictional narrative dialogues...’Plato’s myths include ‘The Androgyne’ and ‘The Birth of Love’ (in 'The Symposium') the famous myth of ‘The Cave’ (in 'The Republic') and ‘The Two Cosmic Eras’ (in 'The Statesman.')

A Myth

“When the earth was first formed, it was red hot. It was surrounded by steam, millions of tonnes of steam and other gases. Slowly, the earth began to cool and all the steam condensed. Water fell on the surface of the earth in such a downpour that anything alive on the earth would have been crushed by the weight. But there was nothing alive. Life started in the seas that formed after the rain fell. Life started, evolved and prospered until the first human beings came along. Those first men and women must have blinked in wonder at their surroundings. The air was brilliantly, transparently clear - it was as if that deluge had occurred only in recent times and had washed down all the dust, everything that would hamper vision. Of course, there was no pollution. Except near a volcano, there was no smoke or fumes, not even a haze.

“So the sun and other stars shone brilliantly. They shone brilliantly but cheerlessly, in a sky that was always black. The sun didn’t do much to warm the earth. It was like the coal fires in the winters when I was young. Those winters always seemed to be bitterly cold and even a big coal fire never warmed the whole room. You could only feel the benefit of the fire if you stood really close to it. Well, of course, those early people couldn’t get nearer to the sun, snuggle up to it for warmth. All they could do was flap their arms or run about or huddle next to each other for warmth - or put up with it and complain.

“Life was grim in those days. At any moment, an island - just a bank of cooled lava, in many cases - might sink without warning beneath the black waves and everyone on it would die. Often, electrical storms would rage and when one broke out, people would scatter in all directions, yelling and shrieking. The storm would drift steadily, as if picking out and chasing after the poor humans fleeing in a particular direction. Suddenly, they would be stopped in their tracks. The flickering purple light would surround them and no one would ever see them again. Those who had been lucky enough to run in other directions would stop, breathe a sigh of relief and admire the beauty of the terrible spectacle.

“There were countless other dangers. There were reptiles of prey, some of them living exclusively on a diet of human beings - hominivorous reptiles, they were called. When the reptiles had found someone to eat, they would circle high above for a few moments and then swoop down with their toothed beaks open, ready to gobble the person up. But sometimes, the air would be so thickly crowded with them that they would get in each others’ way, their hideous leathery wings would become entangled and some of them would come crashing to the ground. In the confusion, the person might be able to escape.

“So the world was full of dangers. It was still being formed. Nothing was fixed, not even the laws of nature. Every so often, the sun would fail to rise and people would groan and curse because they were without its weak warmth. But it might be on just such a day that the mountains of snow and ice which lay inland in almost every country would start to thaw. Torrents of water, excruciatingly cold, would sweep across the land, bringing devastation.”

He could see that the story was frightening her, and as if to make amends, he continued:

“Of course, there were compensations. If someone blundered too near the edge of a precipice and lost his foothold on the loose stones, he wouldn’t necessarily fall on to the rocks below. He might well be lucky and stay suspended in the air - perhaps gravity was very weak at that place on that day. Quite soon, a breeze might blow him back and he might be able to grab a thick fern and save himself.

“Even more remarkable, you could sometimes alter the laws of nature to suit yourself, if your will power was strong enough. Not many people could manage it, but you would sometimes see someone floating high above the ground. Sooner or later, his will wouldn’t be strong enough and he would gently return to earth, as if by parachute. Other strange things were possible. In every country, there were stories of people who had avoided or survived every natural catastrophe and who now refused to die. They were so strong-willed that they refused to submit to their body’s natural processes. But it seems that there wasn’t a single one who chose to live longer than a thousand years. In the end, they would feel that life had become boring and would decide to leave it. It was said that that was a very strange sight - to see the person’s face suddenly change, one moment smooth, the next deeply wrinkled, to see the bright cheeks cave in, the eyes lose their lustre and become sunken, the whole body suddenly wizened and rigid.

“I want to tell you about two children who lived in those times. One was called Zayedh and the other one was called Lamil. One day, they were walking by the sea shore when they saw a peculiar little boat bobbing up and down in the distance, its bright green colour a strong contrast with the inky water. The waves brought it closer and closer until they were able to reach out and bring it in. They saw then that it was skilfully woven from fronds of fern or some other plant and that it was sealed with resin, of the kind which could often be seen dripping from the giant trees. They looked more closely and they were horrified to see underneath a little shelf in the boat an emaciated young man. They pulled him out, filthy and unconscious, and laid him on the pebbly beach. After a while, he opened his eyes and they fed him on the rotting dinosaur meat which was all they had. Quite soon, he felt strong enough to talk. They found no difficulty in understanding him because there was only one language in those days. He told them that his name was Glib and that he had travelled from a far-off land.

“‘I was determined to escape one day,’ he said. “The land’s very favoured. It’s warm all year round. You only have to stretch out your hand and take the fruits which grow everywhere. There, even the poor are rich.’

“Zayedh couldn’t believe his ears. ‘Then why did you want to escape?’ he asked.

“‘The people are hateful. If anyone dares to criticize their way of life, they are shocked. Only a few people want to leave but just in case, they keep men posted all the time on the rocky heights which surround the place. If anyone tries to escape, the guards drop stones on their heads. Anyone who tries to gain entry to the land is killed, too.

“The boys were alarmed to see that the strength of their welcome visitor was failing now - perhaps his stomach was not used to dinosaur meat or perhaps he had an allergy to it. They shook him vigorously.

“‘Where is this place?’ Lamil demanded. ‘Give us exact instructions.’

“‘That’s easy,’ Glib said, weakly. ‘Just travel due East from here and you are bound to reach it...if you survive, like me, all the dangers between there and here.’ His eyes closed.

“‘You must tell us!’ Zayedh said. ‘If we get there, how do we avoid being killed by the guards?’

“‘Rest underneath the cliffs. There are fruit trees there. Cast aside your skins. Rest, recover your strength...when you are ready, scale the cliffs at night and if you are challenged, break into laughter and singing. Sing the praises of the place. Then, the guards will think you have simply strayed, that you live there, that you have no wish to leave.’

“To say all this was a great effort for him. There was now no hope for him. He died, with a smile on his face.

“The boys buried his body in a shallow grave and set to work to repair the boat he had sailed in. They were encouraged to see that it was of stout construction, with a thick hull, but they could not help noticing evidence of the terrible sufferings the young man had undergone. Some sea-monster must have shaved a layer of resin off one corner. There were rows of teeth marks there: a narrow escape. Inside, there were blood stains.

“It was almost a month before the repairs were completed. The making of a new sail took a long time, since the rushes and reeds needed to make it grew in a distant pond and they often had to stop the work of gathering them to flee from the poisonous, brightly- coloured snakes which glided along the surface of the water, hissing threateningly. But they had one stroke of luck. They found a dinosaur which had blundered into a deep mud flat and had become trapped. They managed to kill it with a long stake and to take away masses of meat before flying reptiles reached the scene and feasted on the remains. So at least they would have plenty of provisions for the journey and they were able to replace their filthy, tattered skins with new ones, cut from the dead creature.

“At last, their preparations were completed. They pushed the boat into the water, hopped in and started paddling. Navigation would be no problem. Polaris, the Pole Star, shone then as it does now and it was possible to see it in the day time as well as at night. To help them to navigate more accurately, Zayedh had made a little instrument out of slate, with lines drawn on it.

“The first island they passed was called the Isle of Despair. Everywhere, it was brick red and nothing seemed to grow on it. Even if the boys had wanted to land their boat there for a rest, it would have been impossible to do so, since the land rose out of the water steeply on every side, although it did not rise to any great height. As their boat passed, they saw horrifying groups of people, watching and staring without uttering a single sound. All of them, men, women and children, were coated from head to foot in fine red dust and their faces seemed to plead for help, although they must have realized that the boys could do nothing to help them. It was the grimmest sight imaginable.

“Lamil began to cry and suggested they should turn back. ‘Suppose Glib made it all up!’ he cried. ‘It seems impossible that a place like that should exist...and even if it did, who would want to leave it?” But Zayedh was of firmer mind.

“‘Of course there’s such a place,’ he said, and even if the place isn’t as fine as he said it is, one thing’s certain, it can’t be worse than the one we’ve left. What have we got to lose?’

“The argument seemed to convince Lamil and anyway, before long, they were forced to forget their misery. By luck, there had been a wind which carried them due East, but soon, it began to drop and they had to paddle. It was hard work, but there was no alternative. Zayedh said that it would be best if only one of them paddled at a time whilst the other one slept or rested. So he ordered Lamil to paddle until morning came and said that he would take over then.

“When morning came he was as good as his word but he had not paddled for long before he noticed that ice was beginning to form on the surface of the sea. Then, they both had to paddle but the work became harder and harder and in the end, they had to give up. The ice was now quite thick and getting thicker all the time. They were stuck fast. They were both deeply disappointed. Suddenly, though, Zayedh jumped up, took a stake and went to the side. Judging that the ice was now thick enough to hold him, he lowered himself onto it. He asked Lamil to get out of the boat too and used the stake as a lever to loosen the boat and lift up one side. The boys were then able to drag the craft onto the ice and to jump in again quickly. Zayedh hoped that when the wind rose again, it would be strong enough to propel the boat gently over the ice. If so, the ride would be quite smooth, since the bottom of the boat was covered with resin. There was no wind for two whole days, but just when they were at their wits end, a strong breeze started - going East too, as luck would have it. Soon, they were being given an exhilarating ride over the ice. Lamil clapped his hands and laughed out loud, but Zayedh kept one eye on the Pole Star the whole time and squinted along the lines of his slate instrument.

“The ice not only made their travel faster but also gave them some protection from the sea monsters. Even so, every so often they would see the ice break thunderously in the distance and the heaving back of some bellowing sea animal.

“They travelled in this way for a long time, but one night Zayedh, who was on watch at the time, saw the ice suddenly thaw. The boat settled into the water. Soon after, the wind dropped. He woke up Lamil.

“There was nothing for it but to begin paddling, but soon, they stopped. In the night sky, a wonderful sight was to be seen. Shooting stars sped across the sky in enormous numbers. It was a magnificent display. Orion, up to his usual tricks, was throwing snowballs at Taurus the Bull and Aries the Ram. Both constellations moved this way and that to dodge the missiles. This was nothing unusual. Most stars were never still for long and for night after night you could see them twisting and turning. Some never took part, Polaris for one. He was a dull old star. But soon there was a scene of tumult and chaos such as had rarely been seen before.

“Orion came rushing up to attack Taurus, who blundered in front of Auriga the Charioteer. The charioteer was unseated and knocked flying. He landed on top of Canis Minor, the little dog, who howled and howled. In the general confusion, Aries accidentally butted Pegasus, the Winged Horse, who went stampeding across the heavens, almost flattening Aquarius, spilling all his water and setting Capricorn on a mad rampage of his own. Bootes the Ploughman thought this was a good chance to make a grab for the Northern Crown, which he’d coveted for a long time, but Virgo had got it first and she ran away with it. Bootes deserted his plough and set off in hot pursuit. Cygnus the Swan now went for Polaris with open beak, hissing and beating its wings. Polaris ran away in terror, in search of a quiet corner of the heavens where he could lie low until it was all over. He hid beneath Columba the dove, hardly daring to look.

“It had been a thrilling spectacle until now, but when the boys saw that Polaris had deserted his post, they were terrified.

“‘What’s going to happen to us now? We can’t find our way,’ said Lamil.

“‘We sit and wait,’ said Zayedh. ‘He’s sure to return.’ A day passed, and there was no sign of him. ‘We can’t wait for ever,’ Zayedh said. Before long, we’ll have no food left and then we’ll be too weak to paddle. There are sea monsters all around us. If we stay here any longer, one of them is going to eat us.’

“‘But which way do we go?’ asked Lamil. The black sea gave them no guidance at all. It was the same in every direction.

“They began to paddle, saying not a word. They paddled for hours. Then, they saw dimly in the distance a huge, dark column of swirling water, a water-spout. The water beneath the boat seemed to be drawn towards it.

“‘I knew we should have gone the other way,’ said Lamil. Zayedh told him to shut up and to paddle harder than ever. They paddled furiously, water flying in all directions from their paddles. They began to feel that the force drawing them towards the water-spout was weakening. Then, quite suddenly, the water-spout shifted towards them. They saw the immense, curved wall of water towering above them. In an instant, their boat was sucked into it and smashed into a thousand pieces. And that was the end of Zayedh and Lamil.

“All of this had been observed, in a kind of design office. It was decided that action had to be taken. The Constellations were seen to first. Orion, the biggest troublemaker, was disposed of with a thundering great upper-cut which sent him flying into space at tremendous speed. Bootes was kicked up the backside, sending him flying too. An attempt was made to wring the neck of Cygnus the Swan but it flew off. The other stars were terrified and shot off in different directions. In fact, even now, the stars are moving away from each other at tremendous speeds.

“As seen from the earth, though, their motions seem beautifully regular. It was decided that the time had come to put an end to this celestial anarchy. From now on, the stars would follow regular laws. Ever since, the stars have moved round and round. They are like sad horses, once free to gallop proudly and roam as they wished but now driven round the circus ring under the command of the stern task-master. True, if you look very closely, some of the stars seem to have just a little freedom, but it’s no more than the freedom of the circus horse to move its head a little to the left, a little to the right. But no power can force them to enjoy their slavery and they burn with frustration, are consumed by anger and hurt pride. Some burn with a passion that’s white hot, others have cooled in anger and glow orange or red. In time, the anger of all of them will come to an end and they’ll be nothing but empty shells.

“I haven’t said anything so far about the planets. They reflect the light of the nearest star, the sun. They seem at first sight to have been left with a will of their own. For instance, if you look at Mars or Jupiter over a period of time, you’ll see them loop the loop, do little somersaults in the sky. It’s called retrograde motion. Those little somersaults must be allowed because they amuse. At any rate, the planets have no choice in the matter.

“But don’t imagine that the stars and planets were the only things called to account. Everything else was seen to. New laws were passed, incorporating the old regulations but this time with no exceptions. It was decided, for example, that it was wrong to cheat gravity, just for amusement. It was felt too that it wasn’t right to avoid death indefinitely. A giant tortoise was seen lumbering along by the side of a pond. In future, it was decided, no human being must live longer than a tortoise. It’s lucky that eyes weren’t fixed first on the little mayflies hovering over a pond. The decision was passed on to another department to implement in detail. They said it would be easy - all they had to do was to correct a little design fault in the genetic system.

“It was also decided that all the tough new laws should take effect at midnight after the day when the new laws were passed. When it came to midnight, you can imagine what a shock it must have been. In various places, middle aged people, only 500 years old or so, and with no wish to leave the world, suddenly shrivelled up and died. Youngsters enjoying a little night time levitation tumbled to earth at once.

“It was quite a time before people got used to the new system and most of them were convinced that things had been better in the old days. Others, though, were quick to see the advantages.

“‘At least you know where you stand now,’ they said. They were able to make all sorts of things which it hadn’t been worthwhile attempting before. One group felt that having to use legs to get from place to place was too much trouble. Earlier, they’d attempted to fit a round thing on to a stake but something had always gone wrong. Good, hard wood, that they’d chipped into shape with enormous effort, using sharpened stones, might suddenly turn as soft as jelly. Now they knew that provided they didn’t let the wood rot, it would be serviceable. They knew it would be a little time before all the problems were solved but they were confident that they would succeed. They had a baby dinosaur penned up, ready for the time when they’d built something it could pull.

“Others began to use their imagination in different ways. If one of their number fell sick, moaning and clutching his stomach, they might lie in wait for some passing stranger who seemed full of health, overpower him and drag him off. They’d put him next to the sick person, and, holding the two firmly, cut open their bellies with flint knives. Then they would peer inside gravely, paying no attention to the protests and prod the entrails with their stubby fingers, comparing the two insides and trying to work out what had caused the sickness.

“In no time at all, people stopped complaining of illnesses. If they became covered with boils and their tongues became swollen and furry, they would say in a weak and faltering voice that they had never felt better.

“The people who hated the new laws and preferred the old system said it wasn’t right to cut people open and that those who did such things were sure to get swallowed up by an electrical storm. They said that the sick would get better if only they had enough will power and if they didn’t they only had themselves to blame. In time, this view of things came to prevail almost everywhere, but that’s another story.”


Boycotting fairness: Sheffield Humanist Society  

The Website of Sheffield Humanist Society, notice of a meeting:

'Tuesday 3rd June [2014] at 8:00pm.
The oppression of Palestinians and what we can do to help
Musheir el-Farra - Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign

and this:

' ... information about how Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign is supporting ... the international boycott in a peaceful attempt to put pressure on Israel and our own government to change its policies towards Palestine.'

Elementary fairness - the fairness which many, many religious people as well as secularists acknowledge -  or, better, regard as overwhelmingly important - would demand that in the case of an issue as contentious and contested as this, Sheffield Humanist Society should have invited representatives to put the case for Israel and the case for regarding boycotts of Israel as completely misguided. My page Complacent activists: boycotting Israel does give extended arguments against boycotts of Israel, and the stupidity to be found amongst anti-Israeli activists. The page gives essential context to this brief section. The decision of Sheffield Humanist Society to invite speakers who give only one side of the argument has to be condemned severely. It's surely a dereliction, a betrayal, of the values of fair-minded debate.

To confine attention to one particular issue, Musheir el-Farra of Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign who is due to speak on the virtue of Palestinians in general, the malevolence of Israelis in general (allegedly) has argued - well, not so much argued as stated dogmatically as unshakeable fact - that the Israeli 'cast lead' operation is to be condemned unreservedly. The page

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/castleadtoc.html


gives another point of view, dramatically different, but argued in detail. Sheffield Humanist Society seems to be oblivious of the need to put opposing points of view, but for anyone interested in fairness rather than ideology, the arguments and evidence on this page should be considered very carefully:

Is it possible for a society which promotes secular values, a society which opposes religious values, to show stupidity? Surely not, according to the trite and naive view. But surely this is perfectly possible.  Is it possible for someone who believes that Jesus is the way to forgiveness of sins or that Mary the Mother of God ascended into heaven to show unflinching realism and, also, humane values, in a way which puts many secularists to shame? It is. This is to acknowledge the force of cross-linkage: an ally for one reason may be an opponent for another reason. I'm an atheist, in fact, a militant atheist, but I acknowledge that for some causes, such as opposing boycotts of Israel, I'm allied to some people of faith, not to fellow secularists.

There are secular Palestinians and religious Palestinians, secular Israelis and religious Israelis, but I think that there's overwhelming evidence that it's Israel, not Palestine, which is the more effective force for promoting secular values.

After a meeting which may attempt to provide confirmation (supposedly) that Israel is today the main source of oppression in the Middle East (or the world), the next scheduled meeting of Sheffield Humanist Society is about this issue:

'The Unfinished Battle for LGBT Human Rights in the UK - Peter Tatchell'

The Battle for LGBT rights in Palestinian territories isn’t so much unfinished as hardly begun.

Religions and ideologies and active harm

Hume, writing in the 'Treatise concerning Human Understanding' (Quoted in Richard Wollheim's introduction): 'Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.'

A partial updating of Hume's view: the errors in religion may be  dangerous but the most dangerous errors come from non-religious ideologies. In the past, the most dangerous errors have been Nazism and Communism, and of communist ideologies,  particularly Stalinist communism.  The other-worldly aspects of religion, the stress upon ritual or correct thinking or a holy book, and all the other varied characteristics of religions, have lessened their capacity for causing harm. The cruelties of Christianity, such as the Inquisition, the cruelties of radical Islamism, such as the  punishments allowed by Shariah law, are   restrained in scale in  comparison with the savagery of Nazism and Stalinism, or the atrocities committed by such regimes as those of Pol Pot in Cambodia and the Japanese during the Second World War.

The dangers of non-resistance to active harm

It would be a great mistake to suppose that only religious beliefs which are aggressive or grossly intolerant are dangerous, that religious beliefs which are placid and tolerant can never be  dangerous, or that philosophical beliefs can never be dangerous - with {restriction} of  attention here to physical dangers, the dangers to body. Only a little thought and reflection are needed to realize that Buddhism and Quaker beliefs  (which are peripherally religious) can be  potentially dangerous and actually dangerous. This is for the reason that any set of beliefs, religious or otherwise, which fails to recognize and to act against dangers by giving  support to inaction is itself dangerous. If ruthless militarism is a great danger, so is pacifism in the face of ruthless militarism.

The dangers of tolerance

Even tolerance can be dangerous, as is increasingly recognized. Giving sanctuary to the persecuted is noble but giving sanctuary to the persecuted who would be only too glad to persecute themselves, given the chance, is usually very mistaken. To distinguish between people worthy of a safe haven in a liberal democracy and people who aren't in the least an asset to a liberal democracy, who are a threat to a liberal democracy, may be very difficult, but the attempt has to be made.

A name has to be given to the practice of ultra-realistic non-tolerance of gross extremism. 'Non-tolerance' is better than 'intolerance,' but I prefer to make use again of the concept of {adjustment}. On a personal level, benefactors who are punched in the face by people they have helped substantially, at real cost to themselves, practise {modification} of attitude or behaviour, if they have any sense. (Many benefactors do have sense, but not all.) This {modification} is what I refer to as {adjustment}.

What is an ideology?

 I explain my conception of ideology here, using feminism as the illustrative example. In this section, I make use of {themes} in a few places. These are introduced  in my page Introduction to {theme} theory.

A number of disparate conceptions of ideology have been employed since the term 'idéologie' was coined by Destutt de Tracy in 1796. He envisaged ideology as a general science of ideas, their components and relations - or {linkages}, as I would term it.

The word ideology is predominantly given a normative meaning now. An important stage in the transition to a normative meaning occurred in the 1840's. Marx and Engels in 'The German Ideology,' ('Die deutsche Ideologie'), criticized the Young Hegelians. Their view, it was claimed,  regarded ideas as 'autonomous and efficacious' and failed to grasp 'the real conditions and characteristics of socio-historical life.'

Karl Popper regarded Marxism, and the views of Freud and Adler, as pseudo-scientific.  His account in Chapter 1 of  'Conjectures and Refutations' has great importance in the study of ideology. The book's index reference to this material  is 'total ideology.' I don't endorse in its entirety his view of Freud and Adler. I regard his criticism of Marxism as valid. I don't provide amplification here.

From Introduction to {theme} theory:

Expansion brackets are useful for the process I call 'amplification.' A writer who is pursuing a main argument will sometimes make claims or comments or provide evidence which amount to a brief mention, without any attempt to substantiate the claim or comment or to explain such matters as the degree of reliability of the evidence. Very often, it would be impractical to do so. It is not always possible to present every aspect of an argument thoroughly. 

Popper writes,

'I found that those of my friends who were admirers of Marx, Freud, and Adler, were impressed by a number of points common to these theories, and especially by their apparent explanatory power. These theories appeared to be able to explain practically everything that happened within the fields to which they referred. The study of any of them seemed to have the effect of an intellectual conversion or revelation, opening your eyes to a new truth hidden from those not yet initiated. Once you eyes were thus opened you saw confirming instances everywhere: the world was full of verifications of the theory. Whatever happened always confirmed it. Thus its truth appeared manifest; and unbelievers were clearly people who did not want to see the manifest truth; who refused to see it, either because it was against their class interest, or because of their repressions which were still 'un-analysed' and crying out for treatment.'

All of the criticism here is applicable to the feminist views I criticize, although the 'unbelievers,' of course, are the non-feminists who refuse to see 'the manifest truth' because it was against their gender interest, as males, or because of some deep-seated psychological conditions. Feminist 'consciousness-raising,' when successful, is held to open the eyes of the woman (or man), who now sees confirming instances everywhere of the deadly effects of patriarchy and the truth of feminism. The world is full of verifications of feminist theory. Women who act in non-feminist and anti-feminist ways, for example, are held not to falsify the theory. Their behaviour is due to the malign influence of patriarchy.

Popper adds, 'A Marxist could not open a newspaper without finding on every page confirming evidence for his interpretation of history.' The corresponding feminist will find confirming evidence for an interpretation which finds 'sexism,' not perhaps everywhere, but permeating so many areas of reality, including personal, social, historical and economic reality.

In Chapter 9 of  'Unended Quest,' he explains the development of his thought during an early period of his life: 'I developed further my ideas about the demarcation between scientific theories (like Einstein's) and pseudoscientific theories (like Marx's, Freud's, and Adlers). It became clear to me that what made a theory, or a statement, scientific was its power to rule out, or exclude, the occurrence of some possible events ...' This is the concept of falsification which he elaborated in 'The Logic of Scientific Discovery' ('Die Logic der Forschung.')

Falsification is a concept which has very great importance in the study of philosophy of science but its applicability to the study of ideology, including the ideology - as I see it - of feminism hasn't been adequately explored. I introduce two technical terms which I think are useful in discussions of falsification and attempts to falsify: 'falsificans,' the falsifying arguments and evidence, and 'falsificandum,' the application-sphere of the falsificans. The falsificandum is more general than scientific subject-matter. An ideological falsificandum is, however, falsified less conclusively than a scientific falsificandum.

The two terms, like the word 'falsify,' come from late Latin 'falsificare,' from 'falsus' and facere. They have a linkage with the established terms 'explanans' and 'explanandum,' from 'explanare.' Carl Gustav Hempel and Paul Oppenheim proposed a deductive-nomological model of scientific explanation (not given expansion here):

' ... the event under discussion is explained by subsuming it under general laws, i.e., by showing that it occurred in accordance with those laws, by virtue of the realization of certain specified antecedent conditions' and 'By the explanandum, we understand the sentence describing the phenomenon to be explained (not that phenomenon itself); by the explanans, the class of those sentences which are adduced to account for the phenomenon.' ('Studies in the Logic of Explanation,' 'Philosophy of Science,' XV, p. 152.)

 Popper's concept has been criticized by a number of philosophers. One of them is the Australian philosopher David Stove, who was strongly anti-feminist. Some limitations of David Stove's approach have been very well explored by PatrÝcia Lanša in her article

David Stove against Darwin and Popper: The Perils of Showmanship. (Originally published in 'The Salisbury Review,' Summer 2001.) I don't include her discussion of David Stove's criticisms of Darwin and Darwinism, but I do include her brief, critical, mention of feminism and her criticism of relativism. Many feminists include science in their relativistic views. What she has to say about the manner of criticism is very important for critics of feminism, although I favour a mixture of styles, including ridiculing the ridiculous.  She writes:

'THERE IS ALWAYS something immediately enjoyable about watching, listening to or reading apparently outrageous attacks on received opinion. Reductio ad absurdum is, after all, a time-honoured trick of rhetoric. The attempted dictatorship of 'political correctness' nowadays makes the trick even more liable to work. According to those who listened to the lectures of the Australian philosopher David Stove, he was a virtuoso in the genre. Professor Michael Levin says: 'Reading Stove is like watching Fred Astaire dance. You don't wish you were Fred Astaire, you are just glad to have been around to see him in action'.

'There is, however, a problem with ridicule, especially if we ourselves have our own reasons for not liking its victims. It is liable to obscure solid grounds for criticism and play into the camp of the adversary by providing facile, spurious or distorted arguments. This would seem to be the case with some of Stove's writing as exemplified in the two books under review. Not that he isn't worth reading. His provocative style is such as to make many readers stop, think and re-examine their own preconceptions. On the other hand, those unfamiliar with the subject matter, especially among the younger generation, are likely to be seriously misled about some of his targets and to mistake rhetoric for serious argument.. Stove, who died in 1994, was a conservative, an anti-communist and desperately at odds with the fashionable Left-wing views prevalent in the academy ...

[On his criticism of Popper]

'It is not easy here to produce a rebuttal of the required brevity or to embark on a boringly technical argument for and against Popper's epistemology, but justice does require some attempt to be made. It must first be stated quite unequivocally that certain of Popper's epistemological positions, once widely accepted, have in recent years come under forceful criticism from many quarters ... Nevertheless it is one thing to criticize and quite another to misrepresent.

...

'It is indeed ironic that the anti-communist Stove should find Popper so objectionable when there is probably no academic figure in the last half century who has done as much to combat their common enemy. In fact on many matters Stove and Popper were on the same side. Against irrationalism and relativism, against Freud, against philosophical idealism, against scepticism, critical of some aspects of Darwinism, and, much else.


'So, Popper concluded, scientific laws are not immutable but are always hypotheses. All you can have are better or worse theories and the scientist's work is to produce ever-better theories. The only logically and practically acceptable way to do this is to try to falsify your theory by appropriate testing: the method of trial and error. This, Popper says, is what scientists actually do in real life. Scientific method is basically one of testing, making public and criticizing. Failed theories are abandoned and the search begins again, either by trimming or adapting the old theory or formulating a new one. So a good scientific theory should be framed in such a way that it is testable, in other words falsifiable. If this is not the case then the theory is neither a good theory nor even a scientific theory.

'Demarcating science
Popper was interested in finding a criterion for demarcating science from non-science and he concluded that such theories as Marxism, Freudianism or astrology do not meet the criteria required of a genuinely scientific theory. They are couched in such broad terms that they are invulnerable to falsification. Whatever happens their proponents regard them as either corroborated or unfalsified. They are theories against which no arguments or criticisms can count.

'Whatever the justice of his views on induction, Popper's conception of falsifiability proved a rich field and he mined it for theories in the realm of his other passion: politics and social questions.. Having thrown out positive corroboration as crucial in favour of its negative, namely falsifiability, and having made criticism the essential method for this, he proposed a similar approach in the political and social spheres. The aim of government, of the State, should never be the positive one of trying to make people happy, a quite impossible aim. Happiness is a private matter and conceived of differently by each individual. On the contrary the only feasible objective of government is the negative one of reducing misery. Suffering, starvation, disease and the rest are objective, public and measurable and it is the State's job to try to minimize them because the only justification for the existence of government is the protection of the citizen. To this end freedom to criticize, to discuss and debate solutions is essential. So for Popper democracy means freedom of criticism and institutional arrangements that provide for the removal of unsatisfactory rulers without bloodshed. He deduced from this position the enormous importance of institutions and an institutional tradition, of gradual reform as against revolution, and wrote and lectured widely on these subjects, declaring untiringly that the political systems of Britain, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were the best models so far known.

'Popper’s philosophy of science
Now none of this can be unacceptable to a reasonable person, least of all to a conservative. What has stuck in the throat of many people is that Popper makes his anti-inductivism bear too much weight. To deny the possibility of inductive knowledge is to fly in the face of everybody's everyday experience, including that of our dogs, cats and most other sentient beings. If we did not start by assuming regularities and their more or less indefinite replication none of us would survive for a moment. Indeed, we would be unable to learn anything at all. It would seem, in fact, that all of us, including animals, have an innate predisposition to use induction. Popper did not accept this: he thought that what is innate is the predisposition towards using methods of trial and error. However, to object to induction on the grounds that it does not use the rules of entailment of deductive logic, is to extend the criteria of formal systems and mathematics beyond what is appropriate. Deductive logic is one thing, inductive logic is another and their modes of justification are distinct. In science both logics would appear to have their place. Indeed in the areas of logic and epistemology we can find an ever-growing literature in which even deductive logic is questioned and alternative logics proposed.

'Popper's great contribution to the philosophy of science was to highlight the importance for good theorizing of the need for clear articulation so that it is immediately, or as immediately as possible, apparent what would be the conditions for falsification. Such procedure is both practically and intellectually economical and nurtures the critical approach and in no way encourages relativism.

'Stove will have none of this. In a dizzying dithyramb he inveighs against Popper, not only ignoring his closely woven arguments, but accusing him of such crimes as denying the accumulation of scientific knowledge, of irrationalism and of self-contradiction. The aim of science in Popper's view, Stove alleges, is not to seek truth but to find untruth. Popper's insistence on the provisional nature of scientific theories, on what he calls 'conjectural knowledge' is regarded by Stove as irrational in the extreme. Popper, in effect, denies the accumulation of scientific knowledge because, if it is all provisional, then it cannot be knowledge. Knowledge, for Stove, always means knowledge of the truth, and truth cannot bear the adjective 'conjectural' (as though truth were absolute). He implies that to talk about 'conjectural truth' is rather like talking about somebody being 'a little bit pregnant'. So the concept of 'conjectural knowledge' is a nonsense, a contradiction in terms and meaningless, and leads to the denial of objective truth found in the relativists. Stove makes much of this with his usual darting wit. But his objections are unconvincing. Without entering into the sorely disputed question (among philosophers) of what constitutes truth it seems no more unreasonable to talk of 'conjectural knowledge' than to talk of 'partial knowledge', which everybody does without batting an eyelid. All Popper means by 'conjectural knowledge', is 'the knowledge we have so far on the basis of our unfalsified theories', that is, those theories which when tested are found to have verisimilitude with empirical facts. This is something we hear every day when we are told about 'the present state of knowledge'. So the proposition that absolute truth is unattainable does not entail relativism and, indeed, seems undeniable to most people.

'That Popper believed fiercely in objective truth (in its non-absolute sense) is evidenced from his constant stress that the job of the scientist is the quest for truth. He also thought that this was an unending quest, for our ignorance is infinite before the infinity of what is to be known and the finite nature of our knowledge. This is not the place to examine Popper's somewhat bizarre theory of 'epistemology without a knowing subject', what he called World Three, that mysterious sphere in which are stored books and all man's artefacts, but any serious study of this shows just how much Popper believed in the objectivity of knowledge.

'So, because of his misreading, Stove sees Popper as the ultimate progenitor of the real irrationalists including the unspeakable Feyerabend whose relativism led him quite openly to declare that schoolchildren should be taught astrology and myth as equally valid explanations of the world along with science. Popper's frequent and extended criticism of these attitudes is regarded by Stove as mere quarrelling between inmates of the same stable. He totally ignores the historical fact that the actual forerunners of relativism in philosophy of science were the sociologists of knowledge going back to Mannheim, examined and combatted by Popper himself in many writings. Today, of course, relativism in science studies, rather than coming mainly from Stove's three musketeers has sadly been given a new boost by philosophers of cognitive science in conjunction with artificial intelligence theory such as Stitch, the Churchlands and their disciples.

'Those who wish to have a more informed and balanced view of Popper's ideas would do well to read Anthony O'Hear or Susan Haack. The latter should be of especial interest also to adversaries of all forms of relativism, gender feminism and the corruption of the academy.

'For anyone acquainted with what Popper actually wrote, Stove's wholesale condemnation, can only be regarded as dogmatic and unjust. This is serious because in the present academic atmosphere of relativism, irrationalism and sub-marxism, there could be no better antidote for today's students than to read what Popper has to say about these matters.

'Reading Stove's opinions about him will do little to encourage them in this direction. The trouble is, as indicated at the beginning of these comments, that Stove's style is frequently so engaging and humorous that many readers will be taken in.'

Popper's account of  'pseudo-scientific' theories is a suitable starting point in explaining my own view of ideology. I regard the concept of falsification as important in demarcation, although not the demarcation which Popper employs. The demarcation here is demarcation between two non-scientific interpretations, ideological and non-ideological. I replace 'demarcation' with the {thematic} operation of {separation}, symbol '//' which has material as well as non-material application-spheres. As my concern on this page is feminism rather than Marxism, I give no account of my reasons for thinking that Marxism is ideological, or the views of Freud and Adler.

Outside science, falsifiability has a legitimate use in deciding which views to do with  human nature, human achievement, and other aspects of humanity - I'll refer to 'human studies' -  are securely grounded or the product of ideological distortion. If the distinctive conclusiveness of scientific falsification is lacking, the claim that an argument has been falsified may have great cogency, the argument that an argument has withstood the process of testing far less cogency. 'People are benign' is a statement which can't be tested, or falsified, by the methods of science, but it can be tested, and falsified, to a high degree of probability, by non-scientific methods. 'Women are benign' is a statement which can be tested and falsified too.

Facts are used differently in ideological and non-ideological theories and views. Facts in non-ideological theories and views may often be problematic but they are assessed by using independent methods and techniques, such as comparison of source materials, avoidance of demonstrably unreliable witnesses.

Facts in ideological theories and views avoid the use of methods and techniques external to the ideology. Ideological theories and views are based on the distinction between appearance and reality. Facts belong to the world of appearance, which is regarded as illusory. Facts which are demonstrably true, passing the most thorough and comprehensive tests, belong only to this world of appearance if they conflict with facts which support the ideology. If not in conflict, they are admitted to the world of reality.

'Ideology' derives from the Greek λόγος and ἰδέα.  Liddell and Scott give three basic meanings for ἰδέα in the Greek Lexicon, (1) form (2) semblance, opposed to reality (3) notion, idea. The third is taken to be the meaning applicable in 'ideology,' but an ideology makes use of the second meaning. Liddell and Scott include an interesting illustration for this second meaning, from Theognis: γνώμην ἐξαπατῶσ’ ἰδέαι 'Outward appearances cheat the mind.'

It's essential to distinguish between facts and the explanation for those facts, the context of those facts. The sphere of facts, although far from straightforward, is much simpler than the sphere of explanations and context. I don't accept that facts are themselves interpretations, that there aren't many, many well-grounded facts in human studies.

A feminist could claim that the generalization 'all women lack serious vices' (without {restriction} to sexual vice, of course) should be considered in context, which supplies a cause. The many women who could be cited as counter-examples, the women who obviously have serious vices, are so on account of the manipulation and control exercised by men. A wide variety of other claims about women which seem to challenge feminist views could be countered in a similar way. The feminist would then have to explain, or explain away, the unflattering view of many women which is required here - women as weak and malleable.

If X is the subject matter - class in society, women in history or whatever may be treated in an ideological or non-ideological way - then the crucial difference is that the ideological and the non-ideological way are different in the reasons for {modification} and the use of counter arguments and contrary evidence. {modification} has /{revision}, an example of a 'specific' {theme}, with {restriction}:- general applicability, and the capacity for /{revision} is the term in non-thematic form 'revisability.' Revisability is common to scientific theory and a non-scientific theory, as well as, more loosely, a 'view,'   which is non-ideological.  {modification}:- [ideological theory or view] has as agents not counter arguments and contrary evidence but, as examples, the forces which change an ideology and give it different forms, perhaps as a result of the very different social contexts in which the ideology is found. Similarly, the language in which an ideology is expressed may develop different 'dialects,' for similar reasons.

An ideology may exhibit drastic and abrupt {modification}, as in the case of the communist supporters who abandoned criticism of Nazi Germany, but this was not as a result of counter arguments and contrary evidence but the fact that Soviet Russia entered into a pact with Nazi Germany at Stalin's instigation.

If counter arguments and contrary evidence lead in all cases to no, or practically no, /{revision} of a theory or view, then the theory or view is likely to be ideological.

/{revision} of a non-ideological theory or view, like /{revision} of a scientific theory, allows of quantitative differences. The most drastic form is abandonment. Of course, there may be abandonment of an ideological theory or view, as in the case of communists who became non-communists. Counter arguments and contrary evidence of value may be rejected for a time but eventually have an effect.

'The God That Failed,' published in 1949 book, contains  six essays by prominent writers and journalists who decame disillusioned with communism and abandoned it. The six were Louis Fischer, André  Gide, Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, Stephen Spender and Richard Wright.

A critique of a possible feminist defence is only given in outline here. On this page, as in so much of the site, evidence and argument is often given in a dispersed form. I examine feminist arguments in many places on this page and there are many places in other pages of the site where material can be found which has relevance to this page.

I see the need not to confine attention to the arguments and evidence but to the factors which may prevent the arguments and evidence from being understood or appreciated. This is particularly necessary when considering the totalitarian ideologies, above all Stalinism and Nazism, the subject of Hannah Arendt's 'The Origins of Totalitarianism,' in three parts. Evidence may require insight and sometimes empathy to appreciate. Hannah Arendt could obviously enter the world of totalitarian ideology. She possessed a a far deeper degree of distinctively personal insight, over a far wider range, than, say, Karl Popper. Intellectuality of very great distinction, such as he possessed, can probe some things far more effectively than others.

In the last chapter of the third volume of 'The Origins of Totalitarianism,' significantly entitled 'Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government,' she gives, too late in the book, it has to be said, a formulation of ideology. The formulation isn't a good one: 'Ideologies - isms which to the satisfaction of their adherents can explain everything and every occurrence by deducing it from a single premise - are a very recent phenomenon and, for many decades, played a negligible role in political life.' No ideology explains everything or every occurrence. This is much too wide a claim. Ideologists don't claim to explain, for instance, most natural phenomena. The use of the logical term 'premise' isn't appropriate, and ideological explanations and directives may be derived from a small number of basic beliefs, not necessarily a single one.

Hannah Arendt elicits very different responses. Two very different responses, those of David Satter and Bernard Wasserstein, are given in an excellent  Symposium: Is Hannah Arendt still relevant? I very much believe that she is.

Thesis and anti-thesis

In general, ideologists see no need to defend a thesis against the arguments and evidence which comprise a legitimate anti-thesis. The reference to 'ideology' can be removed, since the claim that the thesis is ideological is often part of the claim of the anti-thesis. I think that these terms 'thesis' and 'anti-thesis' are useful in examining the reaction of feminists to criticisms, and their lack of reaction.

The evidence and arguments put forward by opponents of feminism amount to a substantial case to answer, surely, and I claim to have added to the evidence and arguments. I think that the thesis is substantial but that the anti-thesis is far from substantial.

Argument and the presentation of evidence and the giving of counter-argument and counter-evidence are of fundamental importance and my terms 'thesis' and 'anti-thesis' express these necessities of debate concisely. If the views often summarized as 'political correctness' seem to avoid debate on these terms, it's cause for particular alarm that this is so often the case in universities and colleges.

Thesis can become anti-thesis and anti-thesis can become thesis. If a feminist criticizes the arguments I use and denies that the evidence I put forward is convincing, then this anti-thesis becomes the thesis which it is for me to answer as an anti-thesis.

It's possible that a synthesis will emerge from the contending thesis and anti-thesis, but often this is not the case.

When a very powerful thesis - one with very strong arguments and accompanied by very strong evidence - is challenged by an anti-thesis which has neither, a synthesis is very unlikely. In this case, I use the simple symbolism (thesis) >> (anti-thesis). If the anti-thesis is better supported, then (thesis) > (anti-thesis).

This simple scheme, using this simple pair of terms, has to be supplemented and extended when there are more than two opposing viewpoints, but it can often be used if single aspects are the focus of attention: this is to practise {resolution}.  Often, a practical decision is the issue. A measure may become law or not and there may be support for the change in law or opposition to the change. Supporters of the status quo and opponents of the status quo may have various reasons and may supply different arguments and evidence but the decision may well be a clear-cut one. Support for the status quo is the thesis and opposition to the status quo is the anti-thesis. All that is needed is to distinguish the diverging views which make up the composite thesis and anti-thesis.