Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Subjectivism and the Object

In the same way that our pop culture tells us, in movies and songs, that we should "believe", while quite carefully avoiding the thorny question of "believe what?", so those who are "pro choice" but claim they are not "pro abortion" tell us that a person can "choose" without choosing anything in particular.

Thus, a friend of mine tells me that to be "pro choice" is not to endorse abortion, but simply to recognize a woman's right to decide for herself. "To decide what?" is left conveniently vague. This odd little semantic game is apparently all the rage among the "pro choice" crowd, at least those who are seeking to soothe a troubled conscience with half-hearted logic and bad grammar.

The typical man on the street will, in a similar way, tell you that he's all for faith, that having faith is a great thing. "Believe!" is a kind of bumper sticker slogan these days. But whether that belief should be in Allah, Obama or Jesus Christ the Son of God is left unmentioned.

Beyond that, each of us is constantly admonished to "believe in yourself".

Think about that for a moment - "believe in yourself". What kind of people believe in themselves? Well, I can think of one that did and one that didn't. Charles Manson believed in himself, but Mother Teresa never bothered to. She had someone much more important to believe in.

This is all a form of subjectivism, so much so that one can diagram the disease as one would a sentence. We love the Subject, we're crazy about the Verb, but we'd prefer to ignore the Object. In fact, we're not too crazy about the Verb if it's a Transitive Verb, as "to choose" always is.

For if we believe - in what? - in oursleves; and if we choose - choose what? - whatever; then we never have to face the reality of life, we never have to face the object of our choice, the object of our belief, and the objection this object may make.


Kevin O'Brien said...

Over at Facebook, Joe Grabowski writes ...


The remarkable idiocy of the terminology astounds me sometimes. There are no laws that restrict an individual's right to choose. There are only laws that restrict things chosen. When we say, "I should be able to choose what I want to wear to school," we really mean we want the school to sanction whatever we want to wear - it's meaningless to say that the issue of favoring choosing doesn't touch upon sanctioning the objects of choice. Protecting a woman's right to choose abortion really means sanctioning abortion as something choose-able, or, shortly, sanctioning abortion. Thus, pro-choice really and emphatically means pro-abortion. Conversely, we do not say (usually) that a man should have the right to choose to burn down other people's homes, and what we really mean here is that we do not sanction arson. It just becomes anti-arson. To say, "I don't support arson, but I think it should be up to an individual to choose," is ludicrous because it must mean either (1) we do support arson as a choice that should be sanctioned under law or (2) that we fail to realize that the individual's choice is not restricted in any absolute sense by a law against arson, it just means that in this case that choice is a choice to break the law

Kevin O'Brien said...

Joe Grabowski also reminds me of GK Chesterton's take on the matter. I was tempted to quote him on the folly of "believing in yourself", but Chesterton hits the nail on the head more with this ...

"This pure praise of volition ends in the same break up and blank as the mere pursuit of logic.... [Y]ou cannot praise an action because it shows will; for to say that is merely to say that it is an ac...tion. By this praise of will you cannot really choose one course as better than another. And yet choosing one course as better than another is the very definition of the will you are praising.

The worship of will is the negation of will. To admire mere choice is to refuse to choose.

If Mr. Bernard Shaw comes up to me and says, 'Will something,' that is tantamount to saying, 'I do not mind what you will,' and that is tantamount to saying, 'I have no will in the matter.' You cannot admire will in general, because the essence of will is that it is particular. A brilliant anarchist like Mr. John Davidson feels an irritation against ordinary morality, and therefore he invokes will—will to anything. He only wants humanity to want something. But humanity does want something. It wants ordinary morality. He rebels against the law and tells us to will something or anything. But we have willed something. We have willed the law against which he rebels."