You do not have to think to be a leftist, you only need to feel. In fact, once a leftist begins to think instead of just emote, he’s put himself at risk of realizing just how foolish and empty most of his “ideas” are.
Not only do people on the left rely almost exclusively on instinctual emotions to determine their position on a given issue, the certitude they possess about that position is directly proportional to the intensity of the emotion they feel about it. It is impossible, in their view of things, to feel as strongly as they do about “equality” or “diversity” or “multiculturalism” or whatever and be wrong.
For instance, if they “feel” like Roy Moore is a child molester, it will not matter to them whether any of the accusations against him have any evidentiary support or not (they don’t). And the more intensely they dislike Moore, the more certain they are that he is a cretin. Their mind is made up, please don’t confuse them with things like actual facts or the lack thereof.
This certitude makes it impossible to reason with them, for the simple reason that their view has nothing at all to do with reason. So, facts will not shake them, logic will not shake them, history will not shake them, scientific fact (about gender or life in the womb, for example) will not shake them, and rationality will not shake them. They have a conviction about things that is unshakeable and impervious to reason. They “feel,” therefore they are “right.”
At least one member of the community of higher education gets it. He is Adam J. MacLeod, an associate professor of law at Jones School of Law at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama.
He wrote a recent column, Undoing the Dis-Education of Millennials (worth reading in its entirety) which includes a speech he gave to his incoming classes of millennials. He has discovered that after two decades of mind-numbing indoctrination, “most of them cannot think” and are “enslaved to their appetites and feelings.”
They are quick to dismiss Plato and Hammurabi simply because their ideas are “old,” not because they are “wrong.” It reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ observation that the last barrier he had to clear in order to become a Christian was to overcome the ludicrous concept that newer ideas are better than old ideas simply because they are new, not because they are better. MacLeod calls this what it is, “chronological snobbery.”
Moral knowledge does not, in fact, inevitably progress from one generation to the next. German Nazism was a much newer idea than American democracy, but it was not a better idea.
So Professor MacLeod laid down some ground rules, in a speech he gave to introduce their unit on reason.
First, he said, I must “teach you how to rid yourself of unreason.” Before you can think, he told them, you “must first learn how to stop unthinking.”
“Reasoning,” he went on, “requires you to understand truth claims, even truth claims that you think are false or bad or just icky. Most of you have been taught to label things with various ‘isms’ which prevent you from understanding claims you find uncomfortable or difficult.”
Instead of becoming thinking citizens, MacLeod told them, “You have learned to associate truth with your subjective feelings, which are neither true nor false but only yours, and which are constantly changeful.”
To uproot the senseless weeds that have been planted in their brains, so that good seed can be planted, he established three rules.
“First, except when describing an ideology, you are not to use a word that ends in “ism”... ‘Classism,’ ‘sexism,’ ‘materialism,’ ‘cisgenderism,’ and (yes) even racism are generally not used as meaningful or productive terms...most of the time, they do not promote understanding.” In fact, MacLeod argues, “[I]sms prevent you from learning. You have been taught to slap an ‘ism’ on things that you do not understand, or that make you feel uncomfortable, or that make you uncomfortable because you do not understand them. But slapping a label on the box without first opening the box and examining its contents is a form of cheating.”
Second, he says, while the ideas of diversity and equality have value if properly understood, “the way most of you have been taught to understand them makes you irrational, unreasoning...Equal simply means the same. To say that 2+2 equals 4 is to say that 2+2 is numerically the same as four. And diversity simply means difference. So when you say that we should have diversity and equality you are saying we should have difference and sameness. That is incoherent, by itself. Two things cannot be different and the same at the same time in the same way.”
And diversity by itself is no value at all. For instance, there have been diverse kinds of involuntary servitude - i.e., slavery - down through the ages. That doesn’t by itself make any of them good.
“Third,” he goes on, “you should not bother to tell us how you feel about a topic. Tell us what you think about it. If you can’t think yet, that’s O.K.. Tell us what Aristotle thinks, or Hammurabi thinks...As Aristotle teaches us...men and women who are enslaved to the passions, who never rise above their animal natures by practicing the virtues, do not have worthwhile opinions. Only the person who exercises practical reason and attains practical wisdom knows how first to live his life, then to order his household, and finally, when he is sufficiently wise and mature, to venture opinions on how to bring order to the political community.”
Another utterly false paradigm on the left is that disagreement is hatred. If you disagree with the homosexual agenda, for instance, whether you have valid moral, scientific, logical, historical, or health related reasons for your opposition is utterly immaterial to the left. If you disagree with them, you are a homophobic hater, period. But disagreement is not hatred, the truth is not hate speech, and discernment is not bigotry. MacLeod wants to break through that iron bubble.
One of my goals for you this semester is that each of you will encounter at least one idea that you find disagreeable and that you will achieve genuine disagreement with that idea. I need to explain what I mean by that because many of you have never been taught how to disagree.
Disagreement is not expressing one’s disapproval of something or expressing that something makes you feel bad or icky. To really disagree with someone’s idea or opinion, you must first understand that idea or opinion. When Socrates tells you that a good life is better than a life in exile you can neither agree nor disagree with that claim without first understanding what he means by “good life” and why he thinks running away from Athens would be unjust. Similarly, if someone expresses a view about abortion, and you do not first take the time to understand what the view is and why the person thinks the view is true, then you cannot disagree with the view, much less reason with that person. You might take offense. You might feel bad that someone holds that view. But you are not reasoning unless you are engaging the merits of the argument, just as Socrates engaged with Crito’s argument that he should flee from Athens.
His final ground rule for the semester is the best of them all. “If you ever begin a statement with the words ‘I feel,’ before continuing you must cluck like a chicken or make some other suitable animal sound.”
In what is a glimmer of hope for higher education, his students received his speech quite well, and better yet, so far this semester only two of them have had to cluck like chickens. May his tribe increase, and may his column be required reading in every institution of higher education from now until the end of time.