Don’t call me a liberal, I’m just looking for truth and justice

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I am tired of the worldwide ideological war between right and left. Many have exposed what they call a Conservative Revolution, characterised by the deceitful dismantling of the democratic state in the name of austerity. The conservative revolution is happening from within, but it knows it won’t be able to win without a scenario of doom, just like the one Trump sells American voters every chance he gets.

Tired as I am, I am even more tired of being dismissed as a “liberal”, whose views are bound to be such and such. The problem of being labelled a liberal is that the label legitimises its contrary: conservatism. This is a false opposition, because the right is trying to subvert democracy by appealing to feelings of tribalism, irrational religiosity and fear of differences, whereas people like myself are fighting for truth and justice. There is just no comparison between the two projects. I refuse to be a liberal on the opposite side of a conservative, simply because the arguments advanced by the right are false.

The way right-wing trolls on the internet dismiss their opponents is by labelling them ‘snowflakes’ or some other patronising epithet and appealing to ad hominem pseudo arguments. I am a “liberal” because I find the arguments from the left more convincing.

The right has a hard time putting together credible arguments, so they rely on emotional narratives of doom or failure. Stories are more powerful than numbers.  And gut feeling generally prevails over logic. Granted, one shapes one’s logic according to ideologies and worldviews, and a liberal worldview will certainly produce a liberal logic. But try as I might, I can’t find much logic in the arguments from the right, mostly because they are rooted in bias and self-interest, rather than empirical observation of the world.  Climate change is the best example.  For the right, climate change is a conspiracy. But it is easy to realize that the logic from the right will inevitably crumble under the weight of evidence and necessity.

I am also tired of people who say all truth is a construction, hence no truth is absolute, hence there is no truth. OF COURSE, truth is a construction, so is language, reasoning and communication. These are all human constructions, they don’t exist by themselves. So, yes, I agree, there is no absolute truth and no absolute knowledge about mostly anything (turns out the Earth is not really round, but shaped like an irregular orange).

However, we do have the scientific method at our disposal to help us find contingent truths on which we can base decisions. In simpler language: it is not truth that matters, but the way you seek truth and what you do with it.

Going back to the battle between liberals and conservatives, left and right: no one owns the truth, but we can agree to look for it together, and empirically, rather than build our decisions upon irrational feelings. Habermas was right: reasoning does happen through communication. Language is the key and the tool for rationality.  But he didn’t mean that endless sophism would lead to the truth. Or that all arguments and worldviews are equally valid. Rather, knowledge and truth will emerge from critically analysing arguments IN CONTEXT and from using stable frameworks (like the search for truth and justice in democracy).

In other words, truth is not always relative. Relativists do not establish stable frameworks of critical analysis, but rather accept that “everyone has their own truth”, which might very well be the case, but they forget it is “shared truth” we are looking for: contingent knowledge that serves as stepping stones in the search for courses of action. This happens within stable standards or frameworks which must be agreed upon (the scientific method is one such stable framework). But agreement happens within historical contexts, and remember, everything is a construction. So, what to do?

Most importantly, truth emerges from the empirical observation of reality. Rationality is largely about unveiling true causes and consequences. I am not advocating pure empiricism: values and feelings are important too! But once we observe the world dispassionately and free of bias, feelings can change.

A friend once told me “reality is overrated”. The life of the mind, our fantasies and desires are very important, she meant. But I still believe that the empirical experience of the world works wonders to change our feelings and desires and makes us more sensitive to the feelings, desires and needs of others.

 

 

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