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Can we ever find a reason of why liberalism is “better”?

 
AAtheist
 
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AAtheist
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20 February 2016 21:21
 

I know the title might confuse some people, but I’m willing to elaborate more, hopefully most of you would get my point. This is probably going to be a long-ish post so I appreciate your time reading and discussing this.
So I’m an ex-muslim coming from an Arab country with conservative muslim society. However, my family was kind of different, so I was raised in a comparatively-liberal environment. I was always fascinated with the west and the enlightenment, and this probably helped me become an atheist. Anyways I’m getting to the point.
I always get involved in discussions about the nature of morality and the best system to govern people, since I come from that conservative background. Many people disagree with me and because of that, I once had the idea that maybe morality isn’t like science or math, and that it’s really subjective and relative and we can’t really determine what’s wrong and right. However, it was difficult for me to accept this idea, not because it’s a harsh truth, but because it doesn’t make that much sense for me. And now I’m almost halfway through Sam’s book and he really presents some strong arguments and I can say that I’m for the most part convinced. However, there are some questions in my mind that I can’t seem to find answers to, or rather I have answers and they make sense to me, but I can’t argue why. Sometimes I have thoughts that maybe the moral system I adhere to, and all moral systems, depend -just like mathematics- on axioms, and from these axioms we derive theories about what’s good and what’s not.

But anyways here is my question, can we find a reason of why liberalism is better? by that I mean why is individual’s choice and freedom is better?
Let me give some examples. Suppose there is a country that bans cigarettes, arguing that it’s better for the people. Now I’m a liberal and I would be against that, because I believe people have their rights to choose their own paths in life and they choose to do what they wanna do with their own bodies. But now if you ask me why I have that belief, I wouldn’t know how to answer you. I would simply say that liberty and freedom are “better”, but I just don’t know why, I might have some philosophical arguments, but I don’t think they’re that much strong.

To elaborate more, if you ask me why I believe that democracy is a better system, I really have strong arguments, and some are even backed by science. For example, we know that when people have more power they tend to misuse it; and democracy is a good system of balancing powers so that we can guarantee that a person won’t abuse it, this is even in psychology. Of course there are exceptions, if a society is divided into competing religious sects, one can see that democracy probably won’t work (Iraq for example). Benevolent dictatorships might be much better here.
However, I can’t find such strong arguments for some cases like liberalism or even women rights, which I’m going to talk about now.
I’ve seen women in my society perfectly happy even though they’re oppressed to the deepest level. Some find it ok that they should obey their husbands, and even some find it ok for their husbands to beat them. So how can one actually get an objective reason of why this is bad? Sure I know that it’s freaking terrible, and I value freedom and women’s choices and rights. But the problem here is that these women don’t seem to notice that there is anything wrong with it. Moreover, men who abuse them usually argue that it’s for their women’s own good. So why do we always value an individual’s choices, which is the core of liberalism, when someone can always justify being authoritarian? I know some would say that women who don’t experience suffering are better than those who do, but this is not my point. The point is, some people just find it necessary to be authoritarian over other people, and they do sometimes make sense. My example of the country banning cigarettes is completely justifiable. Cigarettes are bad for our bodies, so what if they were to be prohibited? Forget the fact that there is gonna be black market and useless incarnations etc. etc., the point here is about individuals’s own right for choice.
I would imagine that there are scientific researches in psychology or any other scientific field that are concerned with freedoms and liberty. But I don’t think they would come with results that agree with liberal views. There are people like isis and the nazis who find it necessary to restrict one’s own freedoms, and they’re happy with that.
I hope I got my point clear here.
So do you have any philosophical/scientific arguments of why liberty is important to us? How can we justify it?

P.S. This is not about convincing people, rather this is an attempt to have objective and rational discussion about these issues.

 
Celal
 
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20 February 2016 22:02
 
AAtheist - 20 February 2016 09:21 PM

I’ve seen women in my society perfectly happy even though they’re oppressed to the deepest level. Some find it ok that they should obey their husbands, and even some find it ok for their husbands to beat them. So how can one actually get an objective reason of why this is bad? Sure I know that it’s freaking terrible, and I value freedom and women’s choices and rights. But the problem here is that these women don’t seem to notice that there is anything wrong with it. Moreover, men who abuse them usually argue that it’s for their women’s own good. So why do we always value an individual’s choices, ...

Welcome.

What you have described is “conformity” in Islam,  that is confused for “morality” in Islamic culture.  If morality is left up to a cultural consensus as in Islam, it is bound to be coercive and cruel to some members of that group. Presuming that you find that unacceptable, you would opt for the freedom to pursue happiness and well being so long as you don’t interfere with the rights of others. Generally, Western secular laws aim to allow individual freedoms and religious choices to coexist without societal pressure to choose. 

Individual freedoms allow you to seek personal meaning, personal truth, personal beauty for greater well being whereas the culture you come from imposes a consensus of the ummah, denying all freedoms to the said individual.  So, you might say Islam has the inverted morality of the West.

I do understand what you say in bold. The women you described have “mentally submitted” as is required in Islam. Likewise, the husbands are fulfilling their supposed roles. In both groups of people, wives and husbands, their higher nature is suppressed or even denied by a culture that is imposed on them. How would the wives know any different? They wouldn’t. But,  given the choices and freedoms, would they really choose to be beaten or communicate like mature adults and resolve domestic conflicts peacefully?

 
Twissel
 
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Twissel
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20 February 2016 23:38
 

Hello and well met!

I hope you will find what you are looking for here, but please keep in mind that we are a quite diverse bunch here and don’t see eye-to-eye on many subjects

Concerning your question(s):

The behavior of oppressed groups to feel ‘perfectly fine’ with their condition has been well established throughout history: even in groups of apes and wolf-packs we see that the Omega-animals, basically pushed around by everyone, would rather stay with the group than leave: being part of the perceived ‘natural’ order, even at the lowest level, gives you a sense of belonging. Breaking up the social order brings uncomfortable uncertainty. If you are not sure you can take care of yourself, you are reluctant to become independent of your provider.
Slavery follows the same pattern: most slave revolts throughout history have wanted to improve the conditions of slaves, but never abolish slavery itself.
As Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach said: “Happy slaves are the bitterest enemies of freedom”.
The West had the suffragette movement, in which women fought for the right to vote against a majority of women who were content as housewives and dependents.
So the question is not: are the oppressed happy or not, but: can be assume that they would be happier if not oppressed? Do we have a comparative situation in which we can ask ‘freed’ minorities whether they want to stay free or return to bondage?
And the answers has always been: equality is always better, for the minority and society as a whole. We have never found any scientific reasons why some groups of people can not be self-reliant.
We know that slavery is a very poor way to increase productivity and stifles innovation, and locking half your population away in the house is like knee-capping your economy.

Now the question why liberalism (and with it equality) is (almost) always better: it is a question of Potential.
If fewer things are forbidden, more things are possible. If we accept that we do not really know what is best in all cases, then we believe that there is always room for improvement. It is this base uncertainty that distinguishes Liberalism from all forms of Totalitarianism.
We therefore should be as open as possible for solutions to our problems and not pre-suppose that some areas are off-limits. We might come (through experience) to the conclusion that some behavior will cause more harm than good and institute rules discourage such behavior: hence we do not ban cigarettes but impose stiff taxes or uniform packaging.
It is not that group decision are always better (they are not), but that larger groups of actors can show more varied behavior. If we give these the space to be tested for merit instead of suppression them, we will find unconventional solutions to our problems.
This, of course, is analogous to biological evolution through mutation, in which a larger pool of organism can evolve faster than a small pool.

Hope I managed to explain my view of the issue.
Again, welcome !

 
 
AAtheist
 
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AAtheist
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21 February 2016 10:17
 

Thanks guys, that was very interesting take of the issue.

 
Larry Olson
 
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Larry Olson
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21 February 2016 18:59
 

The problem with liberalism is that it doesn’t mean anything any more. The word liberal has been damaged by liberals. It no longer has any meaning. If being liberal means being tolerant of the intolerant, then being liberal is like a vegan who eats meat from animals that are slaughtered. It simply is a paradox and contradiction that does not make any sense.

There are several memes floating about regarding this:

https://flyoverculturedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/bernie-goldberg-liberal-tolerance.jpg

http://barbwire.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/lib-intolerance.jpg

http://www.thenationalpatriot.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/rfra-1.jpg

I hate to quote Bernie Goldberg, but what he says is true. Liberals are liberal, but so liberal that they invite cultures such as Islam into them, and islam is the opposite of liberal. Do you see the contradiction, and paradox? It’s like TRUE becomes FALSE and 1984 George Orwell described it well.

http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m6wpecOh7N1qi5gt7o1_500.jpg

https://qph.is.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-56dc524890bfe1d1ebd314b86b3cc467?convert_to_webp=true

Liberals tend to be ban happy. They like to ban things, like Guns, whereas conservatives are more liberal about gun ownership. Another paradox.  A conservative is liberal? wtf.

http://neveryetmelted.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/LiberalTolerance2.jpg

This is a good one:
http://www.ldjackson.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/intolerant-liberal-hypocrite.jpg

Liberals are not very liberal when it comes to tolerating conservatives. Ann Coulter was banned from canada, or attempted to be banned from canada by the liberals because they were afraid of what she was going to say. They wanted to censor her.  Christopher Hitchens spoke up about how liberal canada needs to stop limiting free speech, and he may have spoken about other countries.

I am no fan of Ann Coulter but that does not mean she doesn’t have a right to visit and speak in canada. The ban happy NDP voters and Liberal voters in Canada are not true liberals, they are exactly what George Orwell warned us against.

Then there is the whole Libertarian movement who claim to be the true classic liberals, but libertarianism has some of its own problems:
- Like not having any way to properly defend itself in a situation of war, whereas a conservative or socialist government can have a central military that is ready and on guard. Libertarians will come up with their own liberty based volunteer war system, that likely won’t work. I don’t know.

Whenever I use the word liberal, I am very careful to clarify that liberal doesn’t really have much meaning. I say things like “I’m liberal in the sense that,... ” or “if liberal even has any meaning”. So either avoid using liberal since it’s reputation is damaged, or when you speak of liberal, clarify and make sure they won’t stereotype you as the retarded liberal like the NDP/Liberal types in canada who banhappy Ann Coulter.

http://d28hgpri8am2if.cloudfront.net/book_images/cvr9781416936596_9781416936596_hr.jpg

I’m not fond of Ann Coulter so much, but that doesn’t mean as a liberal you ban her.  I probably invented “ban happy” as a new meme, similar to “trigger happy”.  Spread the ban happy meme, please.

And finally:
http://www.dailyracingrag.com/images/beer-goggles-ann-coulter.jpg

[ Edited: 21 February 2016 19:28 by Larry Olson]
 
Celal
 
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21 February 2016 21:08
 

Larry Olson - I do agree with the point of your post and the vivid description of liberal hypocrisy in the attachments. But don’t expect to get much acknowledgement on this board for many are in the cross-hairs. Besides most don’t like the label liberal anymore, “progressive” is more in vogue as the liberalism has gone bankrupt. Kind of like being “progressive” in the early 1900s which then got relabeled as liberalism in 1930s. So a lot of recycling going on and not necessarily for the good of the environment, but to protect the guilty.

 
Twissel
 
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22 February 2016 00:47
 

‘Liberalism’, like ‘Capitalism’ on its own doesn’t mean much, because neither can exist on its own. What shape they take depends massively on the social, political and economic structure they are embedded in.

Liberalism disproportionately favors those in a position to make use of positive changes and shield themselves from the negative ones.

 
 
AAtheist
 
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22 February 2016 06:35
 

Excellent point. What I meant though was the classical liberal values. Free speech, individualism, the right to live without fear of someone attacking you for your opinions, etc.
Liberal nowadays don’t stand up for these values and they twisted the whole ideology. Same thing happened to feminism. In the 60’s it was all about equality and liberating women from oppression, and they did make sense at the time. Nowadays they complain about non-existing problems and won’t acknowledge problems non-white people are having. The irony is, I know many feminists who are pro-hijab and participate in Hijab events. Are you freaking kidding me lol. The whole reason behind Hijab is that women are sexual objects, the thing that feminists should object to. Not to mention that historically it’s been used as a tool to differentiate between muslim women and sex slaves.
Unfortunately, rational and positive ideologies tend to become dogmas as time goes.

 
Twissel
 
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22 February 2016 08:49
 

The Hiijab is at the core an anti-social statement: it is meant as an extension of the walls of the house the woman lives in and suggests that the person should not be engaged in public at all, except by friends&family;.

 
 
Larry Olson
 
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22 February 2016 14:24
 
Twissel - 22 February 2016 08:49 AM

The Hiijab is at the core an anti-social statement: it is meant as an extension of the walls of the house the woman lives in and suggests that the person should not be engaged in public at all, except by friends&family;.

Agree, many feminists I have talked to are perfectly okay with Islam because it’s just another culture and they do things differently over there, which is just fine. Are you freaking kidding me? Multi cultural relativism?  I wish these morons could become educated on multicultural relativism concepts. Like, if Jainists were out killing little children every day because that was part of their spiritual ritual, it would be OKAY with a liberal because that’s just the way they do things as Jainists.

How do you spell stupid: answer: most liberals and feminists.

Then again Conservatives are not super bright either. But at least some conservatives defend against idiotic cultures and non liberal values. Is it a conservative who is actually more of a true liberal nowadays? In some ways yes, other ways not.

Also, it’s not just the hijab, but the burqua, niquab, and all other stupid variations of the product.  The hair covering, while still revealing the face, is not quite as bad like how a man wears a hoody sometimes.. But the difference is men that wear hooded shirts or baseball caps are not wearing them because some book written in the stone ages told them to do it. They are literally choosing to wear the baseball cap or hooded shirt. Women in islam don’t choose it, they are indoctrinated to wear it. People claim it is a personal choice, as much as a little child being baptized at 1 years old is a personal choice of the baby.. which it isn’t.

The hypocrisy of these head scarfs that Muslim women wear, is you often see them wearing pretty ones that are colorful: this attracts more attention to their body, and more men to them, than if they just had normal hair. Someone needs to point this out, because in Canada I see pretty looking head scarfs even some with designs on them! This is literally attracting MORE attention to the muslim woman! Are they just stupid?

Then there is the whole candy theory. If you take candy away from a kid, he will try to get more of it. So the more you try to cover up women, the more sexually demanding you make men. That’s just a theory. i.e. the more you cover up a woman and hide her, the more men will want you anyway.

Here is an example of a Pretty looking head scarf that is supposed to not attract attention to a woman, when in fact it makes her even more attractive:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iF0MEHoTwo

See in the video the purple beautiful scarf on her head that covers her up? it’s attractive, and purple… You think a beautiful purple scarf with patterns on it, like a lingerie bra, this is not going to attract men, if not MORE than if she just had brown hair? LOL, LOL Once again how do you spell “stupid”..

[ Edited: 22 February 2016 14:38 by Larry Olson]
 
icehorse
 
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22 February 2016 14:30
 

I agree that in the world “liberalism” has become distorted beyond recognition. Here in our little SH bubble I would hope we could agree to something roughly like: a belief in liberty and equality.

Twissell, I really like your idea of “potential”.

 
 
Poldano
 
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22 February 2016 22:54
 
Twissel - 22 February 2016 08:49 AM

The Hiijab is at the core an anti-social statement: it is meant as an extension of the walls of the house the woman lives in and suggests that the person should not be engaged in public at all, except by friends&family;.

Considering the society it comes from, is that a bad thing?      wink

I can also interpret it as bringing a focus to the face, and away from other attributes. That tends to focus any attention on personal engagement, rather than (for example) ogling.

Also, not so long ago (in my perspective, anyway) Western women’s dress was equally concerned with personal modesty. Look at Renaissance scenes of peasants for evidence of this.

 
 
Twissel
 
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23 February 2016 00:22
 

A society at its core is a group of people aware of their mutual dependency: we specialize in order to boost productivity, and thereby make ourselves dependent on others for the goods and services we do not produce ourselves.
It is therefore natural to mistrust anyone who tries to remain separate from the group: if you do have no stake in keeping the web of co-dependency going, then you can pack up and leave (or even harm) the group without suffering the consequences.

For women, this is of course intentional, since in a strong patriarchy women are not meant to be autonomous agents and their interactions with others should not matter.
But if women want to be treated as equals, they have to open themselves up to the society to the same degree as the society is open to them.

And, btw, I really don’t buy the ‘temptation caused by hair etc.’ BS: we know from analysis of internet traffic that a big chunk of bandwidth in the Middle East is used up for porn. We also know that prostitution exists (even if it is framed as a ‘one-hour-marriage’ for those with the time, money and hypocrisy to go through the motions).
Single men just like to find someone to feel superior to, especially if they are unemployed, so any excuse will do.

 
 
Larry Olson
 
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23 February 2016 03:13
 
Poldano - 22 February 2016 10:54 PM

Also, not so long ago (in my perspective, anyway) Western women’s dress was equally concerned with personal modesty. Look at Renaissance scenes of peasants for evidence of this.

This was discussed by Sam Harris, I believe in a Google Talk, a few years ago (you know how google has those youtube videos of talks at google?)

He was pointing out in his presentation that some modesty can be good, i.e. not walking around like a complete slut, like the feminist slut walks and women’s magazine covers propose. In other words sure you can dress “appropriate” and not show too much sexual organs, which the feminist slut walks (and women’s magazines in stores) don’t seem to understand, while at the same time not being a complete ass whipe and covering your entire face with a Bee Mask or Bag over your head.

I think this is the one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrA-8rTxXf0
Discussion starts at 31 minute mark roughly, regarding cloth bags over heads, and women’s magazines - complete opposite cultures. What about finding something in between? Somewhat modest, but not a bank robber with a ski mask over his face.

[ Edited: 23 February 2016 04:55 by Larry Olson]
 
LadyJane
 
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23 February 2016 08:35
 
Larry Olson - 23 February 2016 03:13 AM

...some modesty can be good, i.e. not walking around like a complete slut, like the feminist slut walks and women’s magazine covers propose…

That is not what those things are about, sir.  There is no logical reason for women to simmer down before reaching a state of equality.  Until then be prepared to deal with us, as we are, where we are, wearing what we want. When we do reach that state of equal measure, I assure you, we will not be quieting down in the slightest.  We will continue struggling from our shackles to hold onto what we fight for every step of the way.  As anyone who has ever fought for anything clearly understands.  Anyone standing in the doorway of progress only ends up alone in an empty room.  While the rest of us play freely outside.  Tearing us down only makes us stronger.  Maybe it’s just me.

 
 
GAD
 
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23 February 2016 08:51
 
Larry Olson - 23 February 2016 03:13 AM
Poldano - 22 February 2016 10:54 PM

Also, not so long ago (in my perspective, anyway) Western women’s dress was equally concerned with personal modesty. Look at Renaissance scenes of peasants for evidence of this.

This was discussed by Sam Harris, I believe in a Google Talk, a few years ago (you know how google has those youtube videos of talks at google?)

He was pointing out in his presentation that some modesty can be good, i.e. not walking around like a complete slut, like the feminist slut walks and women’s magazine covers propose. In other words sure you can dress “appropriate” and not show too much sexual organs, which the feminist slut walks (and women’s magazines in stores) don’t seem to understand, while at the same time not being a complete ass whipe and covering your entire face with a Bee Mask or Bag over your head.

I think this is the one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrA-8rTxXf0
Discussion starts at 31 minute mark roughly, regarding cloth bags over heads, and women’s magazines - complete opposite cultures. What about finding something in between? Somewhat modest, but not a bank robber with a ski mask over his face.

You come off like a total fucking douche bag here.

 

 
 
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