Friday, 18 November 2016

Self-Willed Ignorance

Behold the Wonders of a Closed Mind

People often get confused about closed mindedness.  They think it means one must not reject anything, but be open to everything.  One comes into every dispute or discussion in a neutral frame of mind.  Open-mindedness, for such folk, is a code phrase for radical relativism.  

"The proposition of the house today is that we shoot all blacks?"  Mmmm.  Let's think about this.  There will be pro arguments and con arguments.  Open mindedness requires we approach such a question with a willingness to bat for either team, depending on how the argument runs.  Clearly a person who thinks in this way has already closed his mind to a vast swathe of truth.  Everything such a mind may consider will be approached from a position of radical relativism.

Genuine open mindedness is a willingness to change one's mind when argument and evidence shows that one is inconsistent with the fundamental beliefs each of us inevitably hold.  At this blog, we are Christians.  We are not going to spend lots of time agonising over whether covetousness is evil.  We reject it from the get-go--and always will--as part of our fundamental belief system.  Open-mindedness, however, in our case means that we are willing to consider, and even reconsider, whether or not certain kinds of ambition, for example, are actually covetousness dressed up as candy.

It's the only way open-mindedness can have any meaning or impact whatsoever.  The alternative begins and ends in meaninglessness.

To be sure, Christians are regularly criticised for not being open-minded, but only by those who are truly closed minded to any possibility of certain and infallible truth.  Yet, ironically, even such as those so radically "open-minded" are actually closed-minded to anything being certain, except the certainty that nothing is certain.

But a new kind of closed-mindedness is emerging in universities and colleges in the United States.
 Take, for example, this latest manifestation at the University of Virginia, where there has been a great deal of upset over the recent election of Donald Trump as US President elect.  The president of the university, Teresa Sullivan wrote to students encouraging them to move on from the adverse electoral result.  She was foolish enough to quote Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the University of Virginia.  She wrote an e-mail to students:
In the email, Sullivan encouraged students to unite in the wake of contentious results, arguing that University students have the responsibility of creating the future they want for themselves.

“Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend that University of Virginia students ‘are not of ordinary significance only: they are exactly the persons who are to succeed to the government of our country, and to rule its future enmities, its friendships and fortunes,’” Sullivan said in the email. “I encourage today’s U.Va. students to embrace that responsibility.”
Sage counsel, one might have thought, to students, suggesting they rise to the challenge presented by the election of Donald Trump.  But a new kind of closed-mindedness suddenly burst forth:
Some professors from the Psychology Department — and other academic departments — did not agree with the use of this quote. Their letter to Sullivan argued that in light of Jefferson’s owning of slaves and other racist beliefs, she should refrain from quoting Jefferson in email communications.

“We would like for our administration to understand that although some members of this community may have come to this university because of Thomas Jefferson's legacy, others of us came here in spite of it,” the letter read. “For many of us, the inclusion of Jefferson quotations in these e-mails undermines the message of unity, equality and civility that you are attempting to convey.”

The letter garnered 469 signatures — from both students and professors — before being sent out via email Nov. 11. Signees included Politics Prof. Nicholas Winter, Psychology Prof. Chad Dodson, Women, Gender and Sexuality Prof. Corinne Field, College Assistant Dean Shilpa Davé, Politics Prof. Lynn Sanders and many more. Asst. Psychology Prof. Noelle Hurd drafted the letter.
The upshot: it is verboten to speak, think, debate, or consider anything the evil slave-owner, Thomas Jefferson did or said.

This peculiar perverse kind of closed-mindedness represents a fallacious ad hominem position of the most extreme kind.  It consigns those who fall under its influence to the worst excesses of  self-willed ignorance.  It is the most extreme form of closed-mindedness we have ever seen.  On this basis, one may never learn from anyone, since everyone can be found guilty of breaching some moral imperative or other.

To make matters worse, the objection to Sullivan's exhortation came from faculty.  Sullivan responded:
Sullivan said quoting someone recognizes “the potency of that person’s words” and that she agrees with Jefferson’s message of University students helping to lead the country.  “Quoting Jefferson (or any historical figure) does not imply an endorsement of all the social structures and beliefs of his time,” she said.

Jefferson could not have anticipated the diversity of leaders the University would produce, Sullivan said.  “All of them belong at today’s U.Va., whose founder’s most influential and most quoted words were ‘...all men are created equal,’’ she said. “Those words were inherently contradictory in an era of slavery, but because of their power, they became the fundamental expression of a more genuine equality today.”
Ouch.  What a powerful rebuke to the closed mindedness of the protesting professors.  OK, petals.  Let's just reason through this a moment.  Thomas Jefferson proclaimed, "all men are created equal".  By your closed mindedness you would reject that truth as beyond consideration or validity because it came out of Jefferson's evil mouth.

Or to put it another way, let any of you who are without sin cast the first stone at Thomas Jefferson--for it is true that what you are asking for is a "killing", an excising of him from history.  He is not nearly pure enough for the likes of those objecting to Sullivan's e-mail.

As we said, this extreme position represents a new kind of closed-mindedness--all in the name of "unity, equality, and civility" of course.  Such a radically ignorant position deserves another quotation--this time from the evil colonialist policeman, that moral bankrupt of the British Raj, George Orwell:
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. 
Clearly, in the closed minds of these folk, Jefferson did not make the cut.

No comments: