The Critic and the Criticized

Hey everyone, I’m back.  I am unemployed and ready to write!

In one month I am going to be starting my masters degree in philosophy and public policy, and I’m pretty excited.  However, the program, by its very nature, poses a philosophical/psychological problem to some of the work I’ve previously done.  One of the themes in my past musings is that we should be primarily preoccupied with our own beliefs and actions instead of the beliefs and actions of others (e.g. Ethics of Excellence).  The problem is that I’m not wholly dedicated to the notion that we should be completely inward focused, but turning our attention outwards seems in many ways a fruitless enterprise (if the goal is to have rational discourse with others in order to come to some kind of agreement.)

Here is what I would describe the problem.  I have suggested in many of my previous posts that we should be focused on our own beliefs instead of the beliefs of others because when we focus on the beliefs of others it is extremely easy to slip into a non-autonomous mode.  When our goal is to press our beliefs, it is very easy for the actual issue to be lost in the face of the contest.  So easy that the slide seems almost inevitable, as demonstrated by many political debates and internet forums. 

There are political topics of immense importance, but conversation on these topics is loaded with emotions for participants which interfere with autonomous engagement on the topic, especially since the participants in these debates often come to see each others as opponents or enemies.  It is a tenant of my philosophical disposition that something has been missed if politics is merely the better rhetorician or politician browbeating their opponent, since there is likely only the most tentative connection between autonomy and political savvy.  If the actor who is exercising their will through the political power is not autonomous, then the laws that they implement will be arbitrary.

The problem, to me, seems wrapped up in the ways that we deliver and receive criticism.  The main factor is the relationship between the communicators – if two conversationalists are hostile towards each other, then non-arbitrary (or rational) outcomes seem nearly impossible.  Perhaps, then, relationship needs to be a central aspect of politics – specifically that non-arbitrary politics requires contesting politicians to be on good terms with one another.

I’ll work on the idea more.

Let me know what you think :),



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