Monday, September 4, 2017

On "White Privilege"

Dennis Prager had a good piece here on so-called "White Privilege."  There it was noted that the poverty rate among two-parent black families is 7% and the poverty rate among single parent white families is 22%. Statistics like this lends credence to the claim that whatever white privilege is, there are other privileges that outweigh it and are worth more of our attention.
But what is "white privilege"?  As a philosopher, I've been asked this on several occasions, and in general I think it's a good idea to get clear on what one is talking about before diving in (how many times have you heard the term "racist" from someone who has no idea what it means?). On one way of understanding white privilege, it is white people having more benefits on average than other racial groups.  Of course, as Prager notes, by the standards of what typically counts as a benefit, Asians fair better than whites, so one wonders why the left isn't talking about Asian privilege, or white and Asian privilege.  Is it because there are more whites in the United States?  I don't think so, for that wouldn't explain why the left talks about the privileges of the "1%" who are also a minority.  (Prager gives the real reason in the excerpt below).

More importantly, this sense of white privilege isn't a very interesting one.  We could just as well talk about "rich privilege," "American privilege," "healthy privilege," or "having all four limbs privilege."  Moreover, this is not the sense of "white privilege" that people who talk on and on about white privilege need in order to shame white people, stir up white envy or hate for political purposes, or assuage their own "white guilt."

What "white privilege" needs to mean is the unearned benefits one has in virtue of one's own whiteness.  That is, it won't do simply to note the benefits--earned or unearned--of whites which have nothing to do with their being white. It needs to be because of the whiteness. The whiteness needs to enter into the explanation of why they have certain unearned benefits.

So what unearned benefits do whites have in virtue of their whiteness?  Well, this will largely depend on the individual.  Certain whites in backwoods communities might have unearned benefits due to their racist neighbors who think less of blacks qua black.  At the same time, it should be noted that they lack the unearned benefit of growing up in a non-racist community.  It is certainly not a moral advantage to grow up in a racist household and community.  In addition, they lack minority scholarships and privileges of affirmative action; in part by lacking education, they continue to be racists. Such unearned benefits need to be weighed with the unearned disadvantages, and there are many disadvantages of growing up uneducated and hating other people simply because of their race.

Speaking of my own case, I'm unaware of unearned benefits that I have due to my whiteness, although I certainly can imagine that there have been times when I benefited.  For instance, it's plausible that I was less observed for possible theft while in stores as a youth compared to blacks my age.  Cases like this can perhaps be multiplied.  At the same time, when in a company in the Army where the chain of command was all black, I was subjected to racism due to my whiteness (one of many, many examples of explicit racism to which I've been subjected).  I also lacked the unearned benefit of affirmative action going through school.  So it's difficult to tell the extent to which my whiteness causally contributed to my stock of unearned advantages.  Of course similar things could be said of blacks, but the devil is in the details. The truth is, most people just don't know the extent to which they've received gained and losses due to their race over the course of a lifetime.
What is almost always confused in these discussions is the difference between the totality of advantages whites have today on average compared (e.g.) to blacks, and what unearned benefits they have because of their own whiteness.  Whites could have more wealth, education, live in safer communities, be raised in two-parent households, etc. and none of this due to their own whiteness.

What about the fact--and it is a fact--that part of the cause of the black plight in the U.S. is due to past slavery by racist whites?  And what about the fact that some whites today (particularly ones with Southern heritage) have benefited downstream from slavery?  Isn't this white privilege?

No, it's not. The fact that I am white and had slave owning white ancestors isn't sufficient for saying that I have white privilege, at least not in a meaningful sense (and, in truth, I have a northern heritage with no known ancestors who owned slaves--but let's suppose I do for the sake of argument).  My whiteness is not the cause of the unearned benefits.  My whiteness in fact is explained by my biological past (supposing for the sake of argument that whiteness is a biological kind and not a social kind), so it can't be an explanation of that past; explanations can't be circular.  Still, let's go ahead and say that I have benefited by white racism in the past.  I have "privilege" in some sense, not because of my own whiteness, but because I received unearned benefits from racist whites in the past.

But then of course we have all received benefits from whites in the past, just as we've all received benefits from all sorts of other people groups from the past. There is a causal chain stretching back to the beginning of mankind from which we've received unearned advantages as well as disadvantages.  And there is no way to sort out the extent to which my unearned advantages are due to prior whites, blacks, browns, and so forth.  (This is a fact that makes reparations for past injustices logistically impossible).  So I think it best to ignore "white privilege" in this sense and focus just on what privileges I have due to my own whiteness.

And now to drive home the main point once again since so few appear to get it: In almost all discussions of so-called "white privilege" there is a deep conflation between unearned advantages that whites have on average and what they have in virtue of their being white.  I came from a small town where there were a lot of  farmers with common sense, where people went to church, there was low crime, drug use, and violence, the county was one of the poorest in the state of Ohio but the schools were decent and relatively safe, people weren't rich but they weren't desperately poor, I had two parents who loved me and disciplined me, etc.  Most importantly, the culture was saturated with people who possessed a good deal of moral virtues.  These are all unearned advantages.  And my community was mostly white, so whites had these unearned advantages.  But none of the things mentioned are unearned advantages due to my own whiteness.  Why not?  Because there are blacks, Hispanics, etc. who also have these same advantages. 

So for those who want to say that whites have "privilege" due to their own whiteness, they need to separate what unearned advantages whites happen to have today and what they have due to their own whiteness.  What unearned advantages do non-racist, poor whites have in virtue of their whiteness?  This would be the place to start.

Dennis Prager, take it away:

[I]f [white privilege] were true, why would whites commit suicide at twice the rate of blacks (and at a higher rate than any other race in America except American Indians)? According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, white men, who the Left argues are the most privileged group of all in America, commit seven out of every ten suicides in America — even though only three out of ten Americans are white males.
Whatever reason one gives for the white suicide rate, it is indisputable that, at the very least, considerably more whites than blacks consider life not worth living. To argue that all these whites were oblivious to all the unique privileges they had is to stretch the definition of “privilege” beyond credulity. Second, there are a host of privileges that dwarf “white privilege.” A huge one is Two-Parent Privilege. If you are raised by a father and mother, you enter adulthood with more privileges than anyone else in American society, irrespective of race, ethnicity, or sex. That’s why the poverty rate among two-parent black families is only 7 percent. Compare that with a 22 percent poverty rate among whites in single-parent homes. Obviously the two-parent home is the decisive “privilege.”
So then why all this left-wing talk about white privilege? The major reason is in order to portray blacks as victims. This achieves two huge goals for the Left — one political, the other philosophical. The political goal is to ensure that blacks continue to view America as racist. [TB: Prager is not denying that there is any racism, just the extent to which it is a cause today.]  The Left knows that the only way to retain political power in America is to perpetuate the belief among black Americans that their primary problem is white racism. Only then will blacks continue to regard the Left and the Democrats as indispensable.
The philosophical reason is that the Left denies — as it has since Marx — the primacy of moral and cultural values in determining the fate of the individual and of society. In the Left’s view, it is not poor values or a lack of moral self-control that causes crime, but poverty and, in the case of black criminals, racism. Therefore, the disproportionate amount of violent crime committed by black males is not attributable to the moral failure of the black criminal or to the likelihood of his not having been raised by a father [TB: or the failure of Democratic policies], but to an external factor over which he has little or no power — white racism. 
White privilege is another left-wing attempt, and a successful one, to keep America from focusing on what will truly help black America — a resurrection of the black family, for example — and instead to focus on an external problem: white privilege.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Image result for sologamy
Another prediction of mine comes to fruition. Sologamy: marriage to oneself (or, rather, "marriage" to oneself). What's the video provided in the link.

It was always a lie that by expanding marriage to include gay "marriage" it would strengthen marriage. The very idea is Orwellian. Rather it would "fundamentally transform" marriage into whatever anyone wants, as long as what one wants is not the real thing, namely, a life-long commitment of sexual fidelity between male and female.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Christian Case for Idolatry

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to worship idols. Now, after years of trying to reject it, I believe idolatry and Christianity are compatible.

A number of evangelical writers have been challenging the monolatrous narrative in a series of scholarly books. They provide a powerful case for listening to the diversity of the ancient witnesses in their original contexts, and call for a Christlike approach of humility, openness, and inclusion toward our idolatrous brothers and sisters.

Some, on hearing this, will of course want to rush straight to the “clobber passages” in Paul’s letters (which we will consider in a moment), in a bid to secure the fundamentalist ramparts and shut down future dialogue. But as we consider the scriptural material, two things stand out.

First, the vast majority of references to idols and idolatry in the Bible come in the Old Testament—the same Old Testament that tells us we can’t eat shellfish or gather sticks on Saturdays. When advocates of monolatry eat bacon sandwiches and drive cars on the weekend, they indicate we should move beyond Old Testament commandments in the new covenant, and rightly so.

Second, and even more significantly, we need to read the whole Bible with reference to the approach of Jesus. To be a Christian is to be a Jesus person—one whose life is based on his priorities, not on the priorities of subsequent theologians. And when we look at Jesus, we notice that he welcomed everyone who came to him, including those whom the (one-God worshiping) religious leaders rejected—and that Jesus said absolutely nothing about idols in any of the four Gospels. Conservative theologians, many of whom are friends of mine, often miss this point in the cut-and-thrust of debate. But for those who love Jesus, it should be at the heart of the discussion.

Jesus had no problem with idolatry.
He included everyone, however many gods they worshiped.
If we want to be like him, then we should adopt the same inclusive approach.

Read the rest.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happy Earth Day!

Five squirrels down and one more to go in order to rid my attic of short and medium term infestation.

Reducing Mother Earth's carbon pawprint one squirrel at a time!

What did you do today to prevent global catastrophe?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Monday, February 6, 2017

Politifact is Select-the-facts

Last year about this time I wrote that Politifact and other so-called fact checkers are as unreliable as the average news agency. Yet they are far worse because they portray themselves as objective and scientific (with their little "truth-meters") when this is far from the case.

Two articles from The Federalist analyzing Politifact support my contention. The analyses are devastating. Just as I said, selection bias is a major problem (among other things).

Here and here.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Twilight Zone

Your ship has finally returned to planet Earth.
The year is 2017.
The President of the United States is.....Donald Trump.
Marrying your first cousin is now illegal in 1/2 of the states.
Yet it is a federal crime for all states not to support gay "marriage" or to forbid killing all babies. Professors at Berkeley are still insane.
The Browns still have not won a Super Bowl.

Friday, February 3, 2017

A Defense Against an Eliminativist Argument

Here's a quick (eliminativist) argument that there are no chairs (I've seen similar arguments):

1. Atoms arranged chair-wise can do all the same causal work that chairs would do if there were chairs over and above atoms arranged chair-wise (swivel, keep your butt from hitting the floor, etc.)
2. Ockham's Razor.
3. Thus no chairs, buildings, arms, scissors....

Most people believe that chairs exist. It's just a Moorean fact for the vast majority of people. They think they *know* that there are chairs. "Of course there are chairs!" So what should most people think about the above argument, particularly premise 1?

I think they should reject it if they also hold the following causal-epistemic principle:
C: If S knows about some x, x plays a causal role in the knowledge of x.

C is plausible--especially if we allow for more than efficient causation. If I walked into a room and saw a hologram of a telephone, forming the belief that there is a phone in the room, I don't have knowledge that there is a phone in the room even if there is one (e.g. on the other side of the room where I haven't observed). I have made no epistemic or psychological contact with the phone.

So if you think that you know there is a chair and accept C, you should think there *is* something for the chair to do in addition to the atoms arranged chair-wise, namely, play a causal role in your knowing that there are chairs. Of course this isn't an argument for the existence of chairs against the eliminativist but it neutralizes the above argument.

Trenton Merricks' reply to a similar defense against the eliminitivist is to say that once one realizes that atoms arranged chair-wise can do all that a chair could do, one's justification for believing in chairs is undermined.  To that I say that one has no justification for the existence of chairs in the first place, at least not in terms of any argument. It just seems that there are chairs. Moreover it just seems that one knows that there are chairs. How is one's justification or warrant undermined? Why is one still not entitled to this belief?


Resist resisting resisting resisters. #resistresistance

Monday, January 30, 2017

Logic and Immigration

Public service announcement.  The following argument is invalid:

1. The Bible says that immigrants in a country are to be treated with human dignity.
2. Therefore the U.S. has an obligation to take in all of the world's refugees, have open borders, and Trump is a Nazi.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Return of the Clock Boy

Remember our old friend Ahmed Mohamed?  No, not that Ahmed Mohamed, or the other Ahmed Mohamed, or that other Ahmed Mohamed, this Ahmed MohamedHe lost his defamation lawsuit failing to provide any evidence that any of the accused said anything false about him.  Senior counsel for the accused concluded by saying:

“This lawsuit filed by Clock Boy’s father is yet another example of Islamist lawfare, which is a component of the Muslim Brotherhood’s civilization jihad.”

"The Islamists employ the progressive mainstream media to label any public criticism of a sharia-centric, jihad-driven Islam as "Islamophobic," and they add fear and financial ruin to the equation by utilizing the legal system to file SLAPP actions."

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Book I Just Read

Hard to put down.  If you have seen the excellent film Patton, you'll love the book.  It seems to me to follow the structure of the film (though I have no idea whether that was the intention) and expand upon it, though it treats Montgomery and Rommel equally with Patton.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Feser on Capital Punishment

Ed Feser's long awaited book is now available for pre-order.  Blurb:
The Catholic Church has in recent decades been associated with opposition to the death penalty. It was not always so. This timely work recovers, and calls for a revival of, the Catholic tradition of support for capital punishment. Drawing upon a wealth of philosophical, scriptural, theological, and social scientific arguments, the authors show that it is the perennial and irreformable teaching of the Church that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate -not only to protect society from immediate physical danger, but also for purposes such as retributive justice and deterrence. They show that the recent statements of churchmen in opposition to the death penalty are merely "prudential judgments" with which faithful Catholics are not obliged to agree. They also show that the prudential grounds for opposition to capital punishment offered by Catholics and others in recent years are without force.
There are some decent arguments against capital punishment, but that capital punishment "can in principle be legitimate" seems to me quite easy to show.  If one commits capital offenses, then one deserves capital punishment.  If one deserves capital punishment, it's permissible (and perhaps sometimes even obligatory) for that person to be put to death.  That some people have committed crimes warranting their own deaths is plainly obvious.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Catholicism as True Enough

 Couldn't agree more with the Maverick Philosopher.  Choose your religion or denomination according to whether you think it is true that it will lead you and those in your care on the path of salvation.  His latest post verbatim:

Catholicism is true enough to provide moral guidance and spiritual sustenance for many, many people.  So if you are a lapsed Catholic, you could do far worse than to return to the arms of Holy Mother the Church. And this despite the deep post-Vatican II corruption. Better such a reversion than to persist in one's worldly ways like St. Augustine who, at age 30, confessed that he was "still caught fast in the same mire by a greed for enjoying present things that both fled me and debased me." (Confessions, Bk. 6, Ch. 11, Ryan tr., p. 149)
 But if you are a Protestant like Tim McGrew or James Anderson, should you 'swim the Tiber'?  Some branches of Protestantism are also good enough and true enough to provide moral guidance and spiritual sustenance.  And this despite the problems of Protestantism.
I should think that practice is more important than doctrine.  Better to remove the lust from your heart than to write an erudite blog entry about it.  The doctrines will always be debated and contested.  Does the Incarnation make logical sense?  Is it perhaps true whether or not it makes sense to the discursive intellect?  We will never know here below.  
Would it not be folly to postpone the reform of one's life until one had solved intellectual difficulties that we have good reason to believe cannot be solved in our present state?  Orthopraxy trumps orthodoxy.  Three elements of Christian orthopraxy: follow the Ten Commandments; avoid the Seven Deadly Sins; observe the Two greatest Commandments.