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Apr 01 2012

The entirely parochial judgment of Stanley Fish

Stanley Fish is doing his Brendan O’Neill act. There is no view from nowhere, therefore no claim is better founded than any other claim, it’s all just likes and dislikes.

 [D]espite invocations of fairness and equality and giving every voice a chance, classical liberals, like any other ideologues  (and ideologues we all are),  divide the world into “us” and “them.”  It’s just that rather than “us” being Christians and “them” Jews or vice-versa, “us” are those who subscribe to the tenets of materialist scientific inquiry and “them” are those who don’t, those who, in the entirely parochial judgment of liberal rationalists,  subscribe to nonsense and superstition.

“Entirely parochial” is it. So it’s entirely parochial to prefer evidence-based engineering to the magic kind?

I’m not criticizing liberals for standing up for, and with, their own,  only for pretending that they are, or could be,  doing something else. Liberals know, without having to think further about it, that those who oppose global warming on religious grounds are just ignorant nuts; and they know that those who deny the Holocaust, no matter what so-called facts and statistics they marshal, are just bad people; and they know that those who want creationism taught in the schools are just using the vocabulary of open inquiry as a Trojan horse.

That’s shockingly ignorant as well as smug. I’d like to see him tell Richard Evans that nonsense about the Holocaust; I’d like to see him tell Barbara Forrest that nonsense about creationism.

But the desire of classical liberals to think of themselves as above the fray, as facilitating inquiry rather than steering it in a favored direction, makes them unable to be content with just saying, You guys are wrong, we’re right,  and we’re not going to listen to you or give you an even break. Instead they labor mightily to  ground their judgments in impersonal standards and impartial procedures (there are none)  so that they can pronounce their excommunications with clean hands and pure — non-partisan, and non-tribal — hearts.

Not for the first time, I have a strong desire to see Stanley Fish in a situation where this kind of irresponsible coat-trailing would be an unaffordable luxury because he depended on the findings of properly conducted inquiry for his very life.

 

13 comments

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  1. 1
    naturalcynic

    PoMo twit

  2. 2
    amhovgaard

    So everything is just opinions and groupthink, no world view is more true and real than any other, we each have our own truth, right? In one of the Nightmare on Elms Street movies a guy climbs a staircase that only exists in his dream. When Mr. Fish can do that, I’ll take him seriously.

  3. 3
    machintelligence

    The only ability that this doofus has is to impress lawyers with his rhetoric.

  4. 4
    David Hart

    What? I’m a (trainee) lawyer and I’m not impressed.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    Ya I think the only people Stanley Fish impresses are cult studs, and he probably doesn’t impress even them very much any more.

  6. 6
    Dave

    I dare say that, to reach his advanced age in good health, he is already wholly dependent on the results of properly-conducted empirical inquiry. Anyway, Morris Zapp for ever!

  7. 7
    sailor1031

    “Liberals know, without having to think further about it, that those who oppose global warming on religious grounds are just ignorant nuts; and they know that those who deny the Holocaust, no matter what so-called facts and statistics they marshal, are just bad people; and they know that those who want creationism taught in the schools are just using the vocabulary of open inquiry as a Trojan horse”

    Well Yes!! That’s exactly right. If you oppose global warming on religious grounds you ARE an ignorant nut. Try scientific grounds – if you can. If you deny the holocaust,despite all the evidence, including the testimonies of thousands who were there and survived and the testimonies of those who liberated camps plus the films they shot at the time PLUS the nazis’ own bureaucratic records, then we have to question your motives. If you use the vocabulary of science to claim respectability and credibility for your favourite 2000 year-old mythology and to claim that it must be taught in schools as being on a par with science then is this not a trojan horse?

    I think Mr Fish has phrased it very well and has made the argument for us!

  8. 8
    Thos Cochrane

    I have a strong desire to see Stanley Fish in a situation where …he depended on the findings of properly conducted inquiry for his very life.

    He drives a car doesn’t he? Occasionally takes a plane somewhere? Well you have your wish, Ophelia, but Mr. Fish doesn’t seem to get the point.

  9. 9
    dirigible

    “that those who deny the Holocaust, no matter what so-called facts and statistics they marshal, are just bad people”

    That “so-called” is the petard upon which this idiocy is hoisted.

    But if Fish’s viewpoint isn’t any more impartial than anyone else’s then I’m at least just as right as he is when I say that they are both bad people and, importantly, factually wrong.

  10. 10
    Caryn

    It’s “without having to think further about it” that gets me. Shorter: Oh, this is just an article of faith for liberals.

    Right. No liberals have ever thought about Hume or Quine. It’s just a thing we know because of our tribalism.

    The whole uniformity of nature assumption is one he takes on board too, of course. Unless he really does expect that his car might turn into a penguin, tomorrow, and that the huge mass of evidence suggesting otherwise could just be shrugged off.

    And of course in Fish’s world there’s no way to talk about what might count as good-quality evidence:

    “Instead they labor mightily to ground their judgments in impersonal standards and impartial procedures (there are none)”

    That car out the window? Maybe we can’t agree on which color of green it is, but using peer review and closer observation and deductive and inductive and abductive reasoning we can all agree that it’s a car. The guy who insists that we can’t, and who then retrieves his keys from his pocket and drives away, is not being equally skeptical of all conclusions based on experience. He’s only skeptical of the ones that suit his privilege.

  11. 11
    Mark Fournier

    Is it just me, or does Fish strike you as a geriatric smirking adolescent whose mother still owes him a sound spanking?

  12. 12
    speedweasel

    He reeks of privilege, of having lived his life in such a way that he’s never needed to confront the truth of his claims. A spoiled baby and an inconsequential fool.

  13. 13
    Svlad Cjelli

    “and they know that those who deny the Holocaust, no matter what so-called facts and statistics they marshal”

    This clause only makes sense in light of Stanley Fish’s positive appraisal of Holocaust-denial.

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