Thursday, May 20, 2004

Another Nail in the Coffin

I am going to take one more jab at William Sloane Coffin, and then leave the old man alone. But why, you ask, do I even bother refuting his tripe? Isn't he beneath refutation? How can you hold a gushing liberal to the standards of rigorous thought? Aren't you engaging in the philosophical equivalent of assaulting a cripple or rolling a drunk?

Well, I am trying to illustrate how to think critically. When you read something, don't just let it wash over you. Inspect it, analyze it. Consider whether or not it has a definite meaning, and then try to evaluate it. Is it true or false? Never just read; always read with an eye toward taking a position on what you are reading, assimilating it if true, or rejecting it if false. Look for the argument if there is one. What is it exactly? What are its explicit premises and tacit assumptions? Are they true? Does the conclusion follow from them?

Here is the passage for analysis, from Credo, p. 41:

As a man I consider myself at best a recovering chauvinist. As a white person I am a recovering racist, and as a straight person a recovering heterosexist.

First we note the confusion of chauvinism with male chauvinism. That's bad enough, but there is worse to come. Note that he says that as a man, he considers himself a recovering male chauvinist. This implies that all males as males are male chauvinists which is falsehood bordering on slander. Then he goes on to compound the idiocy by implying that all whites as whites are racists, and all heterosexuals as heterosexuals are 'heterosexist.' Note that the key terms are not defined. What is a male chauvinist, a racist, a heterosexist? On any reasonable definition of these terms, all of Coffin's allegations are false and indeed slanderous.

This sort of simpering self-deprecation is contemptible rubbish. I'd toss this book into a recycling bin if I hadn't borrowed it from a library. How many trees had to die for this book to live?