The importance of thinking carefully about FMF

Written by: Jason Werbeloff

As a philosopher, I’m often criticized by Regressives (“Progressives”) who argue that there is no place for philosophy in our social discourse. They argue that the careful analysis that philosophers provide is detached from reality, or annoying, or offensive. But cast your eye over the Wits bus set alight with 15 people on board on 25 October.

If one were to point out this incident to a FMF defender as a problem for their movement, they would likely argue that the people who set the bus alight are errant members who don’t represent the group.

So they recommend a principle of extreme moral charity when interpreting the actions of a particular member of a group – whenever a member of the group does something wrong, one can assume that the group as a whole isn’t responsible, but purely the individual member (even though he believed he was acting qua member of the group at the time).

But then the Regressive will denounce any racist remark or action of a white person as representative of whiteness as a whole. “Yup, they’re all like Penny Sparrow,” or, “Yup, all men are misogynistic because x said y.” The Regressive isn’t applying the same principle of moral charity to members of the groups they don’t like, as they do when considering groups they do like.

If the Regressive took a little more care to apply social ethics more analytically and carefully, so many of today’s disagreements would be resolved overnight.

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