The Unreasonable Destructiveness of Political Correctness in Philosophy

Manuel Doria
2017 Philosophies  
I submit that epistemic progress in key areas of contemporary academic philosophy has been compromised by politically correct ("PC") ideology. First, guided by an evolutionary account of ideology, results from social and cognitive psychology and formal philosophical methods, I expose evidence for political bias in contemporary Western academia and sketch a formalization for the contents of beliefs from the PC worldview taken to be of core importance, the theory of social oppression and the
more » ... s of anthropological mental egalitarianism. Then, aided by discussions from contemporary epistemology on epistemic values, I model the problem of epistemic appraisal using the frameworks of multi-objective optimization theory and multi-criteria decision analysis and apply it to politically correct philosophy. I conclude that philosophy guided by politically correct values is bound to produce constructs that are less truth-conducive and that spurious values which are ideologically motivated should be abandoned. Objections to my framework stemming from contextual empiricism, the feminine voice in ethics and political philosophy are considered. I conclude by prescribing the epistemic value of empirical adequacy, the contextual value of political diversity and the moral virtue of moral courage to reverse unwarranted trends in academic philosophy due to PC ideology. 2 of 56 at truth is constrained by standards of objectivity, research aiming at social justice is constrained by standards of political correctness-and the output of both may diverge dramatically. The recognition that political ideology has been harmfully interfering in the thought processes of professional philosophers of unquestionable intelligence and expertise is not often obvious. Robust empirical results in behavioral economics and cognitive and social psychology over the last four decades have consistently shown that human beings are less the creatures of deliberate rational inquiry we'd wish them to be as they are of instinctive bias, confabulation, and groupthink [2] [3] [4] . Although this ideology, unlike other ancient institutional enemies of philosophy, is not overtly homicidal 2 , I claim that it is promoting the assassination of character, deterring the publication of quality research papers, inhibiting the participation of researchers that defend politically unwelcome theses in the academic arena and hindering epistemic progress on critical issues of our times such as the metaphysics of race and sex and the intellectual legitimacy of divergent political beliefs and values. The most conspicuous face of political correctness (hereafter shortened as 'PC') is amply familiar; the enforcement of verbal norms intended to regulate speech which may elicit emotional responses of negative valence to individuals of socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. The hallmark of this process is the phenomenon of lexical substitution through euphemisms (such as the replacement of 'prostitute' for 'sex worker'); these are at the bottom strategic enactments of the moral virtue of politeness in the context of interpersonal verbal interaction meant to decrease hostility and increase cooperation among diverse parties [6] . Notwithstanding, I am primarily interested in the deeper, covert influences of PC in human cognition. In particular, how PC may negatively disrupt rationality in contexts of epistemic appraisal of theories by professional philosophers. As I will argue in detail, one of the reasons why I hold PC carries this penetration over rational inquiry is due to focal, often implicit, claims in history, economics, sociology, anthropology and psychology that ground the very motivation for why one should be politically correct. For instance, peripherally this includes the claim that existing rampant patterns of verbal behavior (and surrounding non-verbal behavior) perceived as discriminatory significantly cause the persisting sustenance of socioeconomic inequality among socially disadvantaged groups (for an overview of this complex subject, see [7] ). But more crucially, we find the claim that socioeconomic potential, as it is constrained by mental ability, is about the same for every human group. My strategy is as follows: Philosophies 2017, 2, 17 4 of 56 of beliefs or their linguistic representations; more importantly, it also encompasses skills that can be culturally transmitted. Specifically for a memetic understanding of ideology, we are interested in a wide variety of cognitive mechanisms (such as patterns of inference chains, heuristics, narrative scripts, idealized cognitive models, etc.). Postulate 3 (Unconscious Processing). The contents of an ideology I are by default processed without major willful deliberation in the minds of the adherents A. This postulate assumes a theoretical endorsement of so-called "dual-processes" theories of reasoning or cognition (for contemporary reviews, see [21, 22] ). This perspective posits two "layers" of cognitive processing; the faster one is phylogenetically ancient, bears processes which are effortless, automatic and unconscious and content that is nonlinguistic. The slower one evolved recently in our species, is cognitively demanding, is under our conscious control and supervision and is associated with discursive or linguistic thought in the "stream of consciousness". This postulate was chiefly inspired by the notion of a vision described by political scientist Thomas Sowell [23] . Sowell characterizes a vision as a "pre-analytic' cognitive act" and "more like a hunch or "gut feeling" than an exercise in logic or factual verification" [23] (pp. 16-20). I submit that ideologies interfere with thought processes chiefly through our more instinctive mind. An important consequence of this is that ideological reasoning may not be readily presentable by introspection as ideological, irrespective of the intellectual abilities of the agent. To identify ideological influence may be extremely costly, requiring extensive cognitive effort. Postulate 4 (The Worldview Constraint). An ideology I furnishes the minds of its adherents with both pretheoretical contents (such as intuitions and platitudes) and with the conceptual resources which allow for deliberate theoretical elaborations, under varying degrees of specificity, over a set of issues which are deemed to be relevant for the adherent. I second Marxist sociologist Göran Therborn [24] in his claim that "the operation of ideology in human life basically involves the constitution and patterning of how human beings live their lives as conscious, reflecting initiators of acts in a structured, meaningful world". Ideologies are comprehensive charts that readily ground, inform and guide human action under a myriad of reflective decision-making contexts. They carry the resources needed to construe answers for a variety of possible inquiries. In other words, ideologies are worldviews. The set of domains over which an ideology informs can vary extensively, from the most general and abstract (such as viewpoints in ontology or legitimate practices of knowledge-acquisition) to the more specific and concrete (such as particular notions of social causation or even a partial description of a particular economic theory). The more an ideology has nurtured a culture of internal criticism, the more one may expect it to have its tenets publicly expressed in theoretical form. Postulate 5 (Biocultural Symbiosis). For an ideology I, there exists at least one social group S, whose set of collective goals G intersect with the set of goals G of the ideology I.
doi:10.3390/philosophies2030017 fatcat:oxsy5p65wrfazjq5amgiz6kiie