Monday, August 30, 2010

Historical Causation or the Logic of Private Belief.

It seems that Conservatives are going to go all in on Glenn Beck's latest dog and pony show. Why?  I have no idea. I am, no doubt, biased but there seems to me that there is no way that that little man's moment in the sun ends in something other than a real tragedy.  Over at NRO one of the flying monkeys, Abigail Thernstrom by name, argues, or perhaps more accurately asserts,
Chris Wallace spoke as if the Poor People’s Campaign was the logical culmination of King’s entire life. And he declared that “the civil rights movement was always about an economic agenda.” Chris, no.
You see, Thernstrom later clarifies, although the "Poor People's Campaign  was consistent with" King's "long-held private belief in some vague form of democratic socialism," it was the case that
in the earlier years, King argued in the public arena for a color-blind society, and it is that commitment for which we honor him. The socialist elements in his private thinking are a separate story.
Got that?  He argued for a color blind society not because of some private belief but because of, well it's not really clear what.  Maybe a commitment to Conservative values?  Let's take Thernstrom's point about King's later positions not being the "logical culmination" of his earlier private belief.  This is a really bad argument, or assertion, when directed at something that actually happened. It might be the case that later King wasn't the logical culmination of younger King's private beliefs, then again it might be that later King developed logically from early King's private beliefs.

As an example, Reagan's Conservativism and his violation of the constitution were not the logic culmination of his early Liberalism because lots of Liberals didn't become economically illiterate, war mongers. Q.E.D.  The problem here is that the fact of the matter is that Reagan did become what he became and so did King. So if the later Reagan was not the "logical culmination" of his private beliefs, we ought be able to point to something, Red's Under the Beds -- as a suggestion, to show what altered those beliefs.   Consequently, when considering the intellectual, moral, and political developments of anyone we need to look to their "private belief" and see if, when, or how it changed in order to determine if "private belief" held early  was the, or in any event a, determining factor in public utterances later uttered.  If you see what I mean.

Let's say that as an ordained minister, King's private beliefs arose from his long-term engagement with the Gospel and, as an Christian, he looked to Christ for guidance when developing his private views prior to taking those views public.  Let's go further and say that King was influenced by Christ's social teaching as it related to equality and justice. Let's finally say that it is  logically consistent for King, who began with a commitment to justice and equality as it related to race and racism, to move from his initial and more "narrow" focus to the broader focus of justice and equality for all men and women, i.e, the Poor People's movement.

Does Thernstrom think that public utterance isn't motivated by private belief and that changes in public utterance aren't the result of thinking through broader implications of private beliefs? It seems to me that she can't think that, because if it is the case the question arise of what, exactly are public utterances the result.  Things, i.e., an end to white supremacy, she now endorses? And if someone says something they can't possibly believe then what are we to make of them as critics?  Right now the answer for Conservative, or many of them, is that it is flying monkeys all the way down.

[Edited for clarity and charity]

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