Liberal arguments – checking my beliefs

WEDNESDAY, 23 DECEMBER 2015

For a while now I have been following the fiery verbal battles amongst leftist/liberal writers and other intellectuals on social media, in interviews on talk shows and in articles on the Internet. To make it easier for myself to distinguish what differentiates one from the other, even though all these people can broadly be sorted on the more progressive side of the political spectrum, I have come up with very elementary descriptions. Note that the descriptions are not comprehensive. For example, just because I say one person is pro-freedom of speech and it is not mentioned in the description of another person, is not to say that it is not also important to that person. What I tried to do is to basically point out a person’s primary focus areas.

Sam Harris, Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens: anti-religion; pro-science; non-religious ethics and morality; pro-government action against Islamism

Richard Dawkins: anti-religion; pro-science; non-religious ethics and morality

Noam Chomsky: freedom of the individual; anti-aggressive, imperialistic American foreign policy; pro-people against power (whether own government or foreign invader)

Glenn Greenwald, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden: pro-freedom of speech (Greenwald with caveats, for example anti Charlie Hebdo cartoons, called them “offensive and bigoted”); individual liberty, especially against “Big Brother” government

Michael Moore: anti-aggressive, imperialistic American foreign policy; pro-people against power (whether own government or foreign invader); anti-discrimination based on race, gender, sexual preference, etc.; pro-equality on health care, education, etc.

In case you haven’t been following the action, here is a sample:

Sam Harris & Noam Chomsky

The Limits of Discourse – As Demonstrated by Sam Harris and Noam Chomsky

Scoring the Noam Chomsky/Sam Harris debate: How the professor knocked out the atheist

Sam Harris & Glenn Greenwald

Sam Harris vs. Glenn Greenwald on Islam

Christopher Hitchens & Noam Chomsky

A Rejoinder to Noam Chomsky

Reply to Hitchens

Ben Affleck & Bill Maher, Sam Harris

Real Time with Bill Maher: Ben Affleck, Sam Harris and Bill Maher Debate Radical Islam (HBO)

Can Liberalism Be Saved From Itself?

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20:27

Ask yourself whether you will still do X, or worry about what Y thinks of you, if you knew you will no longer be alive in five years’ time. Then ask the same question about three years, two years, one year …

20:29

Every now and then I check my mental processes for what I believe in.

Answer: I believe in reason, and being reasonable. And I believe in Civilization. I believe that people can get along better with each other, and that more people will be able to lead happier lives, and perhaps get more done with their lives, if everyone worked together.

This most recent spot check was done on the sidewalk of a street in Kaohsiung as I was walking back from where I buy dinner on a Wednesday evening. For the umpteenth time in recent weeks I had seen how people kept driving even though they should have been able to see they were not going to make it before the traffic light turned red. Of course they end up, along with a dozen or more other motorists in the intersection when the traffic has to start moving in the other direction – and when pedestrians have to cross the road. “Imagine what the world will be like if people just cooperate better,” I murmured in the direction of a motorist who, as could be expected, sat there as stiff as a zombie, looking straight ahead.

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