• schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    Is “Western Civilization”, the very foundation self-criticism regarding ideas like universal rights, due process, and Western philosophy itself unfairly and unthinkingly maligned by educators and leftists for some kind of relativism or one-way version of rights? (Only the West has to abide by rights but no one else even though everyone else was basically colonized, uses the technology of the west and are forced into the post-WW2 reality of “nation-states” rather than sprawling multi-ethnic empires or tribal units that proceeded it)? Isn’t it true you can’t have it both ways, you either have universal rights and liberal principles are a thing or they are not. You can’t have it one way. The very idea of being self-critical of one’s OWN ideals seems a Western thing. You posit this idea of “rights” and you see if you’re living up to it. Does Bill Maher have a point? I would say yes. See here:

  • Down The Rabbit Hole
    525


    Not only would you expect better of your own elected representatives that have been voted in by you and your peers, this is the most realistic thing you have control over. It's hard enough to effect change in your own country through campaigning for the attention of your fellow citizens that would most share your values. It's almost, if not, a waste of time to try and change the values of people living on foreign lands. It makes sense that people are most critical of their fellow citizens and representatives they elect.
  • frank
    14.9k
    Isn’t it true you can’t have it both ways, you either have universal rights and liberal principles are a thing or they are not.schopenhauer1

    Do you mean the west should be antagonistic toward countries that don't value rights and liberal principles?
  • NOS4A2
    8.7k


    The West has also given us fascism, socialism, communism, and whatever the current brand of nanny-statism is.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    The West has also given us fascism, socialism, communism, and whatever the current brand of nanny-statism is.NOS4A2

    Of course. They also gave us the "nation-state". Indeed, I would argue it is how the ideas of "nation-state" collide with ideas of "liberalism" "conservatism" and "socialism" that cause many issues of the 19th-21st centuries.
  • LuckyR
    443
    Critiquing "Western civilization" begs the question: as opposed to the alternative of... Eastern civilization?
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    Do you mean the west should be antagonistic toward countries that don't value rights and liberal principles?frank

    I didn't mean that. Where did you get that from? Rather, Maher's critique was of the "Left" critiquing Western civilization, downplaying the very values that are usually seen as "good" (like universal rights). I think it brings up a larger point of "Liberalism" versus "Leftism" in general. Liberalism generally tends to see the universal aspects, and that more-or-less, everyone has inherent "rights". However, this butts up against the left-tendency to value cultural relativism (each culture should be respected). So it brings up a whole hose of contradictions:

    1) What if a unique cultural trait is something that is contrary to universal human rights?

    2) What of the fact that "rights" and "balanced forms of government" and "legal rights" were really an idea that came about in a time and context (arguably from previous Greco-Roman and even Medieval thought in Europe, but can certainly be demarcated around the Enlightenment emerging in the 17th century and going full force by the 18th century).

    2a) Well, if this came out of the "West" should the "West" expect other peoples not of the Western tradition to follow the Western position? You will get a plethora of views. Traditional Liberals will say it applies everywhere, a more leftist ideology would say its the oppressor culture demanding more than is its right from various other traditions. However, this same group cannot cry "foul" then about violation of rights on one side but not on the other, as if only one side can be held to Western standards, but another should not. I guess in this case, there is a belief that if it "started in the West" then "universal rights matter", but if it started from the non-West they don't? Then are they really universal?

    3) If universal rights are seen as good by both liberals and leftists, and these are a cultural feature that came out of a place and time, is it wise to downplay the role of this cultural feature simply because its the dominant one?
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    Isn’t it true you can’t have it both ways, you either have universal rights and liberal principles are a thing or they are not.schopenhauer1
    Attempts by Europeans to impose "universal rights and liberal principles" by colonizing and coopting non-Europeans for the last half-millennium was and is, in fact, trying to "have it both ways" – subverting that "universalist" end with illiberal (i.e. imperialist/hegemonic) means.

    The very idea of being self-critical of one’s OWN ideals seems a Western thing.
    In theory, maybe; but not in practice. Empires (via conquistadors, gunships, missionaries & systematic colonization), for example, are not "self-critical" emancipatory projects (pace Hegel, vide Aristotle).

    Journalist: What do you think of Western civilization?

    Mahatma Gandhi: I think it would be a good idea.
    :fire:
  • NOS4A2
    8.7k


    Of course. They also gave us the "nation-state". Indeed, I would argue it is how the ideas of "nation-state" collide with ideas of "liberalism" "conservatism" and "socialism" that cause many issues of the 19th-21st centuries.

    I think you’re right about that. I would go further and say the nation-state is just a repurposing of the Ancien Régime, not a repudiation, and the ideas you mention are built around seeking that power.

    Anyways, there is a good little book by Pascal Brukner called The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism that goes deep into your topic from the French perspective. It’s basically a form of narcissism arising from a wing of well-fed socialists upset that, in the end, the proletariat sided with their bogeyman.
  • RogueAI
    2.7k
    Do you mean the west should be antagonistic toward countries that don't value rights and liberal principles?frank

    It depends on what the goals of those countries are. Are they expansionist? Are they threatening other Western countries and/or countries that are friendly to Western interests? Do they fund anti-West terrorists? The West should definitely be antagonistic towards China, Russia, Iran, and N. Korea.
  • Echarmion
    2.5k
    In theory, maybe; but not in practice. Empires (via conquistadors, gunships, missionaries & systematic colonization), for example, are not "self-critical" emancipatory projects (pace Hegel, vide Aristotle).180 Proof

    That's true, but at the same time would the pagan roman empire, if given modern tools, not be even more cruel and rapacious? There is a significant capacity for self-criticism in western philosophy, arguably inherited from the anarchist (or at least anti-authoritarian) side of Jesus' teachings.
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    Last time I checked, "the Roman Empire" was the root of what we today call "Western Civilization" and, given the choice of "sword or the Cross" in the name of Jesus, much of the world was "Christianized" during the millennium after the fall of Rome. Conquest, not self-critique.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    Attempts by Europeans to impose "universal rights and liberal principles" by colonizing and coopting non-Europeans for the last half-millennium was and is, in fact, trying to "have it both ways" – subverting that "universalist" end with illiberal (i.e. imperialist/hegemonic) means.180 Proof

    But surely the "illiberal" part is Western too. You doubt the idea of "self-criticism" as Western, but I believe this demonstrates it. It is Western intellectuals, or at least, the torch-bearing of such ideas by the former colonists, that talk in such terms. You need an idea of "liberal" to have "illiberal". So which is it? It's either "law of the jungle and conquer", or universal rights exist.

    In theory, maybe; but not in practice. Empires (via conquistadors, gunships, missionaries & systematic colonization), for example, are not "self-critical" emancipatory projects (pace Hegel, vide Aristotle).180 Proof

    Absolutely. I won't debate that there. Europe, mainly Britain, France, Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal, conquered the rest of the world with their technology and then those that did not get decimated remained in the system under their particular style of government, enlightened or otherwise. Italy and Germany were late to the game in forming a nation-state out of smaller states and kingdoms. Italy tried and failed in Ethiopia. Germany also had some forays into Africa, but mainly used their industrialized economy to start wars with their neighbors. They kept it more internal, Napoleon-style. They had to show their British and French neighbors that they are players too. Austria-Hungary was by that point a quaint idea of old- multi-ethnic empires, as dead as the Holy Roman Empire. My point was that after this initial conquest though, even the idea of "fighting the colonizers" with terms like "rights" and "self-determination" through "democratic rule" is Western itself. You can't get out of it.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    I think you’re right about that. I would go further and say the nation-state is just a repurposing of the Ancien Régime, not a repudiation, and the ideas you mention are built around seeking that power.

    Anyways, there is a good little book by Pascal Brukner called The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism that goes deep into your topic from the French perspective. It’s basically a form of narcissism arising from a wing of well-fed socialists upset that, in the end, the proletariat sided with their bogeyman.
    NOS4A2

    Interesting. How much do you think anti-Western imperialism was fed by socialists (I would say more Communists and Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist theories). Surely those are Western too (and can be considered broadly "socialist" but in a sort of very definitive school of thought that can be characterized as Hegelian-Marxist, rather than a broad notion of social welfare). Can there be a direct lineage of modern Islamist ideology that has connections to Marxist anti-imperialist thinking during the Cold War? Is it the "West" teaching the former colonies how to fight "the West", but retrofitting it?
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Is “Western Civilization”, the very foundation self-criticism regarding ideas like universal rights, due process, and Western philosophy itself unfairly and unthinkingly maligned by educators and leftists for some kind of relativism or one-way version of rights?schopenhauer1

    Moral relativism of both individual and cultural varieties is in vogue, and it happens to be incoherent in the way it is presented. If someone is an individual moral relativist, then they should not tell other individuals what to do (but of course they do). If someone is a cultural moral relativist, then they should not tell other cultures what to do (but of course they do). That is the underlying vacillation: when the relativist wants someone to do something, they exert pressure. When they see others exerting pressure for a cause with which they disagree, they call foul on account of moral relativism. I think this is the underlying double standard that first needs to be addressed.

    To give an example, if someone is against cultural exports then they are not rationally permitted to export their favorite issues to other cultures (e.g. exporting women's rights to the Middle East). If they are going to try to export their favorite issues to other cultures, then they cannot oppose cultural exports tout court and still be consistent.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    To give an example, if someone is against cultural exports then they are not rationally permitted to export their favorite issues to other cultures (e.g. exporting women's rights to the Middle East). If they are going to try to export their favorite issues to other cultures, then they cannot oppose cultural exports tout court and still be consistent.Leontiskos

    Actually, I tend to think it is the opposite. They look the other way, or downplay the "liberal values" that are not being followed, as long as that nation-state has a grievance with the West, and emphasize that grievance as the matter that counts, not the internal liberal society of that nation-state.

    Indeed, and I think this reveals a bigger issue, actually. First off, accepting being in the confines of a "nation-state", is Western, is it not? Okay, now to fight the Westerners, you have rockets, grenades, mortars, tanks, and guns. Is this not made in Western factories, using Western-based technology? Much of the infrastructure, and medicine, and engineering is Western, no? Okay, so let's say these notions and material resources are legitimate to import, with this importation, why would universal rights, freedom of speech and press, due process, etc. the "liberal" parts of the West be unacceptable to import? Even a bigger question, why would the cultural relativists be okay with cultural export of Western material items and notions of nation-state, but not internal notions of "liberal civil society and polity"? Also, why would one support Western notions of "self-determination", but then not Western forms of non-violence or civil discourse versus tacitly being okay with terrorism as long as it is for some form of nation-state which again, is a Western notion. There is a knot of contradictory beliefs for those who hold "cultural relativism" leftist beliefs. And even modern terrorism, arguably is just a Western import from anarcho-communist tactics and ideologies of anti-Western imperialist groups of the 20th century.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    There is a knot of contradictory beliefs for those who hold "cultural relativism" leftist beliefs.schopenhauer1

    Yes, good points. I think we need to keep shining light on that knot until it breaks down. Cultures are porous, and there has always been intercultural exchange and trade. There may be good reasons for distinguishing some exports from others, but the simplistic idea that "all cultural exports are impermissible" is crazy and impracticable.

    Another thing to note is that if someone holds that it is unjust to export such-and-such a cultural artifact, then they must forfeit their claim that everything is a power game. That's another thing that irks me about the left: out of one side of their mouth come claims that everything is merely a power game, and out of the other side come claims regarding justice. Granted, they may not use the word "justice," but that is what they are talking about: what is right or wrong (permissible or impermissible) in a manner that is not affected by will or power.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    That's another thing that irks me about the left: out of one side of their mouth come claims that everything is merely a power game, and out of the other side come claims regarding justice. Granted, they may not use the word "justice," but that is what they are talking about: what is right or wrong (permissible or impermissible) in a manner that is not affected by will or power.Leontiskos

    No, many do use "justice", "self-determination", "rights". But it imports the Marxist ideas of the "oppressed". So now, if you are the "oppressed", the "victims" (non-Western former colonized nations, ethnic groups, or people), your reaction will be, well, reactionary and this is promoted and praised. That is to say, often violent, terroristic, and all of it. At the same time, the Westerners who tacitly or loudly support these groups/states, are the loudest in their own societies against the illiberalism that they support in the "oppressed states" societies. Again, contradiction upon contradiction.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    I think you’re right about that. I would go further and say the nation-state is just a repurposing of the Ancien Régime, not a repudiation, and the ideas you mention are built around seeking that power.NOS4A2

    And also, do you not think this guy:
    LawrenceRobes-Wikicommons_full.jpg

    was trying to import the idea of "nationalism" an "nation-state" to Arab tribal societies to break up the Ottoman's 400+ year reign over the Middle East?

    And did not the Sykes-Picot agreement that created more-or-less, the modern Middle Eastern borders (and thus basically the territory for this new "nation-state" import)?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sykes%E2%80%93Picot_Agreement
    The Sykes–Picot Agreement (/ˈsaɪks ˈpiːkoʊ, - pɪˈkoʊ, - piːˈkoʊ/[1]) was a 1916 secret treaty between the United Kingdom and France, with assent from the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Italy, to define their mutually agreed spheres of influence and control in an eventual partition of the Ottoman Empire.
    And did not the Scramble for Africa in the 1800s not create the arbitrary states (and notions of a nation-state) in Africa?

    Is it not the toppling of the Spanish of the Incan/Aztec empires (who were brutally oppressive in some ways themselves) that created the Latin American countries. The Spanish aristocrats, coming over and intermarrying with former Aztec, Taino, and other native peoples to form a stratified and often more forcefully brutal kind of hierarchy than the US slave system?

    Is it not the Portuguese and then Brazilians, who followed the same Spanish model, but with the added step of importing more slaves than the US, Spanish and French colonies by a longshot? And then the last to stop the slave trade and slavery in 1888?

    Was it not the British who basically helped to wipe out the Natives in the 13 colonies, to then to be extended with Manifest Destiny, the Louisiana Purchase and settler movement, and the Mexican War, that allowed the United States to become as large as it became? And don't forget Canada!

    And I am not forgetting the colonizing of British colonies in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the like... Let's not forget those more recent colonization efforts....
  • frank
    14.9k
    It depends on what the goals of those countries are. Are they expansionist? Are they threatening other Western countries and/or countries that are friendly to Western interests? Do they fund anti-West terrorists? The West should definitely be antagonistic towards China, Russia, Iran, and N. Korea.RogueAI

    I think we'll find reason to be at odds with each other one way or another.
  • I like sushi
    4.4k
    “What have the Romans ever done for us?”
  • kudos
    384
    Is “Western Civilization”, the very foundation self-criticism regarding ideas like universal rights, due process, and Western philosophy itself unfairly and unthinkingly maligned by educators and leftists for some kind of relativism or one-way version of rights?
    Who are these leftists, and why is their devotion to one of four two-dimensional directions make them an enemy?
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    “What have the Romans ever done for us?”I like sushi

    Exactly
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    2.6k
    Again, contradiction upon contradiction.schopenhauer1

    The contradiction is heinous. Good luck getting any leftist symp to reconcile any of it. Instead, expect that they will misapply your logic and pin the contradiction on the oppressive structure of the west.

    Leftist morality reduces all good and evil to oppressed and oppressor (as you aptly tied to marxism). It runs into the contradiction because it is collectivist, and it applies its relativistic morality only to groups, so that we inevitably find many of these groups to be both oppressor and oppressed. And here we see the classical moral dilemma.

    Of course they try to weasel out of this with the idea of intersectionality so that they will not have to admit the evil of one type of oppressor over another, after all, an oppressor of any kind is equally evil in all cases and it is never ok to sympathize with the oppressor. The only thing more evil than the oppressor is the one that oppresses along multiple dimensions, and the more dimensions the more evil. They have unanimously distinguished the west as indisputably having more structures of oppression than any other entity in existence. But this still does not address the moral dilemma.

    Because of the leftist emphasis on the group, the morality can never be localized to single cases. In other words, for example, moralizing about the oppression of women does not stop when defending an oppressed nation that actively oppresses women. No, the rights of women are supposed to be universally respected in all places, at all times - wherever oppression of women is possibile, it is relevant... no exceptions. But, alas, this is not the case.

    If leftists weren't so full of shit, they would respect their intersectional logic and raise hell over the oppression of women within particular nations that are colonized. But then, this would make them, ipso facto, on the side of the western colonial oppressor, which is a big no-no. This is why so many leftists are capable of siding with a group like Hamas while entirely dismissing the plight of Palestinian women that are directly oppressed by Hamas. But then this places them on the side of the western patriarchy, which is equally evil to the western colonizer. It is perplexing.

    It's all hypocrisy.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    2.6k
    So which is it? It's either "law of the jungle and conquer", or universal rights exist.schopenhauer1

    As if many on the left do not seek some egalitarian utopia by means of conquering the "status quo" through violent revolution. It is inevitable that in the victory of the left, it will become the very oppressor that it condemns. Simply more natural contradictions of the Left.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    2.6k
    Who are these leftists, and why is their devotion to one of four two-dimensional directions make them an enemy?kudos

    These are people who have a strong commitment to collectivism and egalitarianism. In recent times, the left has taken on an adversarial disposition towards the liberal principles of freedom and progress.

    The examples of recent leftist censorship and hatred of freedom are countless. But even more unnerving is its opposition towards actual liberal progress - which traditionally seeks to take whatever is the case and improve upon it, while protecting essential freedom at all cost (all in theory of course). And all the while, the Left has been secretly embracing a desconstructionist ethic (usurping the principle of freedom and deceptively calling it progressivism) that aims to raze any traditional institution that it deems oppressive - claiming whatever smoldering heap leftover to be an improvement.

    Unfortunately, the damage has been done by the dishonest Leftist exploitation of liberal progress. Now, any sincere progressive movements advocating for equal rights of oppressed groups will be reasonably looked upon with suspicion of covertly pushing a subversive deconstructionist agenda.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    2.6k
    “What have the Romans ever done for us?”I like sushi

    I believe they gave us the proto-codpiece
  • ssu
    8.3k
    The very idea of being self-critical of one’s OWN ideals seems a Western thing.schopenhauer1
    I would go further and say it is part of Western culture, not just something that seems to be Western. Of course being critical about one's own culture and society isn't solely a Western thing. Kemalism of Turkey is a prime example of a non-Western nations leaders understanding that the weakness they suffered against the West was their own fault and because of their own backwardness. Similarly the Japanese woke up by an American warship and had their Meiji-restauration. Yet the kind of perpetual criticism is quite Western: everything could be always better.

    Hence some people are pissed off when leaders say that they defend Western democratic values yet introduce Apartheid type segregation with people living under different laws or just don't give a fuck about rights of individuals or existing international agreements.

    Putin is at least honest when he makes a difference between the decadent (homosexual?) Western Europe and the pure traditionalist Russia. I myself consider Russian culture Western, but seems that Putin wants to make the difference with Russian culture being Eurasian.
  • mcdoodle
    1.1k
    Is it because I'm not north American that I find it hard to understand this thread? Bill Maher is one of those comedians who doesn't travel well, I think it's one of those things about being divided by a common language.

    So I'm a leftist; I'm a strong supporter of universal human rights; and philosophically I am a sort of moral relativist. David Vellemann outlines the kind of view I go with: that different social groups can, indeed will, have incompatible moralities, but their moral concerns are thematically linked. Rational-based negotiation then remains the best way of trying to resolve moral differences.

    The argument here seems much more political than philosophical. Who are the 'leftists' who under attack here? Why hasn't anyone quoted any of them? What is the corrective moral view: Maher is a comedian so he has every right not to have an answer, but are people in general arguing for moral objectivism, or what?
  • kudos
    384
    These are people who have a strong commitment to collectivism and egalitarianism. In recent times, the left has taken on an adversarial disposition towards the liberal principles of freedom and progress.
    I think you have cheated here. You have used the word ‘Leftist’ to contain an admixture of subject and predicates. It is no longer descriptive word, but has become the grounds for the tautology of ‘X are the problem, because they are people with this problem. All you have accomplished is put a name to a bunch of integrated predicates, which does not help describe who you’re talking about or what the problem is.

    However, I don’t mean to diminish your concerns, because they are still real and valid. But doing this makes your argument about cultural power as opposed to knowledge or wisdom, and it is thus not really philosophy. I mean, after all, who does not believe in collectivism and egalitarianism? We must be more descriptive of the subjects involved, what the problem is, and then and only then can there be any meaningful analysis.
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