At PajamasMedia, Amit Ghate shows off a fairly straightforward application of principled thinking as he tackles the common, yet artificial distinction between “force” and “violence”, first noted by Ayn Rand during the ’60’s.
The comments, as usual, are full of the usual pragmatism that shows up when an Objectivist op/ed shows up at PJM. They are usually of this sort — a conservative who chides the writer for “errors” which are merely artifacts of his own incomprehension. (The most advanced of these are the ones that dimly recognize that principled thinking is afoot, but chide the writer for burdening his point with “amateur philosophy”.)
What suddenly jumped into my head was the realization that this sort of thing exactly parallels a well-known phenomenon from history, which not only concretizes the “epistemological primitivism” I’ve been writing about, but is an instance of it: the Cargo Cults of the South Pacific. (Ironically, the reason why it was fresh in my mind was because I’d read some comments on conservative blogs recently, aptly applying the label to some Leftists.)
From the Wikipedia article:
“A cargo cult is a type of religious practice that may appear in traditional tribal societies in the wake of interaction with technologically advanced cultures. The cults are focused on obtaining the material wealth (the “cargo”) of the advanced culture through magic and religious rituals and practices, believing that the wealth was intended for them by their deities and ancestors.”
Lacking any kind of grasp of the nature of what they saw, including its causal origins, the islanders imagined that by re-creating the accidental surface details of American military personnel — i.e. what they could perceive — they could somehow enjoy the full benefits of their presence once more.
That isn’t merely an apt description of how conservatives view the U.S. Constitution — and liberty itself; it’s precisely the same phenomenon (even down to “traditional”, “Deities” and “ancestors”).
The only difference, is that the ignorance of the South Sea natives was not deliberate.