Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Meaning and Identity [in progress]

I'm beginning this without looking at any of the philosophy books I studied poorly when I was a sad excuse for a grad student in philosophy. We understand intuitively that our outlook on things, our "world view" (Weltanschauung — I remember that much, poorly), affects how we receive the world. Philosophers, as far as I know, still struggle with how our perception of things is related to the things themselves (if they even take those things to exist).

We don't need to get that involved. My interest is political disagreement, the bitter kind. I'm prompted now by what I take to be Israeli war crimes in their attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. My guess is that there are several kinds of apologist for or supporter of the Israeli action:
  1. Those largely ignorant of the facts, for any number of reasons and regardless of what philosophers my worry about with the term "fact".
  2. Those who are well-informed, and consciously, aggressively pro-Israel. I include in this number people like Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman — people who I think are racist war criminals. A related but different set that is much like this from a moral standpoint includes those well-informed on the facts but too self-serving or politically craven to stand up for principle.
  3. And those who are reasonably well-informed and genuinely dumbfounded by the worldwide anger over Israel's actions.
From the standpoint of political action and especially prosecution, group 2 is important. With the related set of self-serving creatures I describe, this set accounts for most politicians and corporate executives. These are the people who place self-interest over all concerns of decency or morality. These are the people who also are well-aware of environmental issues, the risks of smoking, the details of bad policy, but who pursue that bad policy because they make money that way or because they get a kick out of it or because they're sociopaths (like Avigdor Lieberman).

Group 2 consists in ol'-fashioned criminals, of varying degrees of culpability. We have a pretty good idea of how to deal with this lot, when (emphasis on when) we (The People) have the power and means to deal with them. So we dealt, largely, with the architects of Nazi war crimes. The Germans lost, making it possible to prosecute (but note the treatment of some of the rocket geniuses to realize how self-interest intervenes).

Group 3 is interesting. Group 3 consists in the people with whom — if we could overcome our respective biases and barriers — we could probably talk very reasonably and fruitfully (note the diplomat-speak). Group 3 might be termed, somewhat glibly or disparagingly, the True Believers. Most people (I hope) are True Believers in something.

[more soon, Tuesday, 1 June 2010]

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