The danger of philosophy without reality

A common argument set against social justice culture is that it relies too heavily on the trope of constructs. It would be naïve, however, just to record this as a hitch in modern ‘progressive’ values: it is a philosophical problem at large.

Part of this naivety comes from those of a  culturally conservative persuasion, wielding the construct argument against transgenderism. Sure, gender isn’t a social construct, it is a biological truth that medical advancement has the power to change, and that’s fine. To swing back and argue the case against transgender people being transgender on this basis is a crude misuse of the situation, besides being at odds with placing freedom as the most desirable ends. In other words, the argument that gender is a social construct is ‘wrong’, but that doesn’t matter per se: if people see that as their justification for undergoing a medical procedure, so be it. As long as there is no force exerted in either direction (that is to say, being forced to not undergo procedure or being forced to use a pronoun or accept gender as a ‘construct’), all is well.

Let’s tighten up our terms: the construct argument, as far as I see it, is the pseudo-intellectual trend that there is no objective reality. This seems to be an excuse for lax intellectual groundwork: if everything is so subjective, and there is absolutely nothing to latch on to, why even study? Why work? Why exist? This is why it is so easy to conflate the construct argument and socialistic ideology; it is a kind of apathetic nihilism, seductive because it excuses low-effort thought and action.

On the level of lifestyle, stoic philosophies are an interesting antidote to this, as they present a compromise embedded deeply in reality. This was one of my takings from reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. The idea is that there is real adversity and the chaos of existence is an unfortunate truth. The way to contend with this is to acknowledge these truths, contemplate them rationally and employ learning in a personal culture of self-mastery. This, in general terms, is far healthier than throwing reality to the wind as some sort of self-placation. It would be like an alcohol binge, whereby the problems have been temporarily ignored and ultimately avoided. Quite unlike sober rationality, where the loftiest goal can be to contemplate death and face it without fear. This isn’t the nihilism that I argued against earlier; it is attributing the ultimate value to life.

Subjectivity in and of itself exists which is of course good; it gives diversity in discussion around experience. It would be absurd to argue a case against this. What I am making a case against is leaning wholly on the subjective to the point of ignoring truthful, objective factors of probability and influence. For example, someone arguing the case in the realm of construct/subjectivity would surely say that a bitter food cannot be assessed as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, as everyone’s taste is different (or indeed taste is just a construct). This is ignorant of general truths: most would find bitter foods disagreeable and find sweet foods agreeable. Subjective value judgements occur with some degree of external influence: the debate lies in the degree to which outside forces exert influence on us and our interpretation, and the extent to which we exert our judgement on outside forces and ‘construct’ what they are. I’d make the argument that it  is predominantly interpretation, and we infuse our subjective values with them.

So, why perceive philosophy without reality as a ‘danger’?

The trend of philosophy that disregards reality is that it sets one in a state of ecstasy. Aside from promoting laziness of thought inherently, it leads one down a path of uncertainty that could be problematic to one’s mental health as it deletes personal conviction, substituting it with submission to such mystical concepts as ‘fate’ .

There is very little that can be done when a debate devolves into the realm of constructs, which just so happens to be a neat tool for revisionist history – the consequences of which were imagined in their most extreme eventuality by Orwell in 1984. The idea of an unreality allows for destruction and a rebuilding, a key desire of the social justice consciousness. I’d say that the emphasis would be better placed on a true progressivism; the furtherance of individual rights, taking learnings from history instead of trying to demolish it.

This philosophy is pervasive as it effects the personal, scaling up to the political. Ayn Rand gives a good definition of this in The Anatomy of Compromise:

“…The manifestation of a disintegrating consciousness is the inability to think and act in terms of principles. A principle is “a fundamental, primary, or general truth, on which other truths depend.” Thus a principle is an abstraction which subsumes a great number of concretes”.[1]

Principled action always derives from a concrete. If we take this idea into the personal, we could suggest that all ‘good’ action is truthful, honest and real. If we take this idea into the political, action that is not rooted in a concrete could be definitionally dangerous; take Corbyn’s plan to fund countless national schemes in a country already submerged by national debt.

As seems customary now, I leave the stage with a disclaimer: I’m not suggesting that any philosophy should be suppressed. I am attempting to deconstruct a threat to academia whereby debate may be stifled by the denial of truth or reality. Only when truths are established and discussed can they be placed in the future; this surely can’t happen if they are to be thrown to the wind in the favour of being on a notional ‘right side of history’ or in the interests of inducing an existential mind-blowing.


[1] Rand, Ayn ‘The Anatomy of Compromise’, printed originally in The Objectivist Newsletter (January 1964), found in ‘Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal’.

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