Monday, June 07, 2004

Have I Contradicted Myself?

While on ego surfari, I turned up this tidbit from the MadGrad:

Today I ran across the Maverick Philosopher blog and Both the blog and the web page are by the same philosopher, Bill Vallicella.

Although I noticed several things of interest on both the blog and the web page I also noticed the following: the motto on the blog is "Study everything, join nothing" (Paul Brunton) and on the web page Dr. Vallicella notes that "the greying of my beard has made of me a man of the Right." Isn't there a contradiction here? Assuming that Dr. Vallicella put the motto on the blog because it is something that he affirms it seems to me that we might ask if it is consistent to both
"join nothing" and be a "man of the Right"? Isn't associating oneself with one side of the moral and political spectrum joining something?

Whether or not I am contradicting myself depends on whether or not affirming a set of propositions (which one would have to do to be on the Right or on the Left for that matter) amounts to joining something. I would answer this question in the negative. What one joins are things like groups, clubs, organizations, associations, political parties, churches, federations, institutions, etc. Clearly, one can affirm a set of propositions without joining any organization that embodies those propositions. Hence one can be on the Right without joining any right-wing group. 'The Right' refers to a tendency of thought, or a point of view. One can subscribe to, adhere to, align oneself with, a point of view, but one cannot join a point of view. So I plead innocent of the charge of self-contradiction.

The reason Brunton enjoins us to "join nothing" is that groups and institutions tend to interfere with independent thought. Brunton's injunction can be put in the form of a hypothetical imperative: If you want to be as free in your thinking as possible, then stay clear of organizations as far as possible.