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Ideology vs Philosophy: Sam Harris, Cenk Uygur, and the importance of honest actors

Discussion in 'Religious Debates' started by Mickdrew, Jun 22, 2016.

  1. Mickdrew

    Mickdrew Member

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    [Apologies in advance if this thread is miscategorized. It has elements of a religious debate, political debate, and a philosophical discussion. I honestly had no idea which of the 3 would be best fitted]

    For those who don't know: logic is not meant to be the basis for ad hoc reasoning (or at least good logic isn't). You don't argue for what you want the truth to be, or how you wish the world would work. It's meant to build off how things actually are and how the world truly works.
    This is one of the reasons why politics and philosophy don't mesh well together in a discussion. To the overwhelming majority of pundits/commentators, politics is dictated to them by their ideology; their agenda. It is not a system of thinking that takes a problem as it is and pieces together the best solution from scratch, it is a paradigm which has built in assumptions of how the world and people work, and uses that perspective to address phenomena in society.

    This is the difference between reasoning from the ground up and reasoning from a set position - and it cannot be overstated. If you are arguing from a fixed ideology, then you are speaking the wrong language in philosophy.
    Nowhere is this more obvious than in the case of Sam Harris and Cenk Uygur.

    So Harris has a controversial position: That the religion of Islam itself is the problem when it comes to radicalization in the Middle East and across the globe. According to him, the holy books dictate that its followers take certain steps for the religion to dominate across the world. This is troubling since Muslims take their holy books more literally than other Abrahamic religions, meaning that the religion of Islam is at war with itself in many way - with moderates seeking non-violence, and radicals using passages from the Quran and the Hadith to encourage less liberty and less tolerance.

    Now, you may very well disagree with most or all of that position (I certainly take issue with it), but there is one thing no one can dispute: it is a conclusion he has reached using a philosophical approach, not an ideological one. Harris is certainly a polarizing figure, but he is an intellectual in the end: meaning his diagnosis of a problem is made from the best attempt to understand the world as it is, with as few prior assumptions as possible (not to say that he's successful, but the effort is there).

    The reaction from many liberals to the idea that Islam as a religion is a danger which must be stopped has been decidedly negative. Many accuse people who support views similar to this as being racist, bigoted, xenophobic, and are comparable to many neoconservatives.
    Is anyone reading this starting to see the problem with these accusations? Notice the emotional and political attacks in response to these ideas instead of any substantive response?
    If any of you are confused, let me ask you a few basic questions: can you be bigoted for criticizing holy books and the people who follow them? Are you racist for holding a view which is grounded in rational arguments and reasoned conclusions?

    In philosophy, the most important step in rebutting a person's argument is to fully comprehend it, and give their position the most charitable interpretation when responding. This ensures that you are an honest actor who is reasoning from the ground up to move closer to the truth. This is what Harris is probably used to receiving among other philosophers, which is why these wild accusations are so irritating. Many of the people making these accusations are doing so for the sake of ideology, not the truth. Rather than taking the necessary steps to comprehend and give an informed response, they resort to smear tactics and personal attacks because the conclusions reached do not fit their presupposed ideology of how the world works. There is a difference between what is true and what you want to be true, and many are happy to misrepresent and quote mine people who hold positions they disagree with - lest they be forced to consider an argument that makes them uncomfortable or goes against their ideology.

    This is what happens when the realm of politics attempts to criticize a strand of philosophy. In politics, pundits are free to enact their "fight the other side" mentality and smear people's ideology, but this mentality translates badly into rational discussions.

    Cenk Uygur demonstrates this in the video below. He quotes Sam Harris, who makes a very radical conclusion on his blog: that nuclear weapons might need to be deployed if radical groups in the middle east acquires their own weapons of mass destruction and threatens to fire them. Before we go any further, this is an incredibly extreme scenario that Harris conjures up. Honestly, I have no idea what my solution would be in such a situation, and the idea of it becoming a reality scares me to death (just like if Trump gets his hands on America's nukes lol). Nonetheless, I am willing to understand that Harris is posing this hypothetical to show how a no-win scenario with suicidal groups would lead to a need for extreme measures (one which I think I may safely say most could never handle in good conscience).
    With that in mind, watch how Cenk cannot help smearing his position - while ironically saying he's not doing so. Yes, yes you are, Cenk. The problem is he treats Harris's logical argument as a political ideology, and uses his own political ideology to smear how Harris thinks less of people in the Middle East for being another race. Disagree with Harris's argument as much as you like (I certainly do), but you cannot ever claim that this "rebuttal" attempts to comprehend and give the most charity to what he's saying.


    The reason why I bring this up is because this mentality of responding to rational arguments with ideological smears does not help your side, but undermines it entirely. As someone who has massive disagreements with some of Harris's positions, I cannot emphasis how important it is to respond with credible and well thought out responses of our own. To do otherwise is to make one side look irrational and poorly thought out - filled with people who would rather resort to ad hominems in order to support their own ad hoc conclusions. If nothing else, I hope I have shown how political/religious/social agendas only harm any meaningful or productive discussion: one which goes from the bottom up, not starting at the conclusion and moving backwards.

    To close out this longwinded rant, here is another great example of how ad hoc conclusions can ruin any meaningful discussion or attempt to grasp the truth, courtesy of Theoretical Bull****:


    What are your thoughts? (sorry for the length of this post haha)
     
    #1 Mickdrew, Jun 22, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2016
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  2. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    I'm truly disappointed by Cenk Uygur there. He seems to miss the point entirely and fill it with some vague suggestions of racism.

    I can't help but wonder if he is pretending his failure at understanding Harris.

    From past videos I thought him more capable and more honest than that.
     
  3. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise

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    Hate to break this to you but Cenk and The Young Turks have a bad reputation as dishonest and without integrity. For a while now. And I say that as a previous subscriber of theirs. They went from providing a Liberal (American) perspective on News Stories to unscrupulous "journalism" with Cenk pushing his agenda hardcore. A shame since there are a few of his staff or ex staff (is Cenk still there?) that seem genuine.
     
  4. von bek

    von bek Well-Known Member

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    For what it is worth, Cenk is an ex-Muslim and has never shied away from criticizing the religion he grew up in.
     
  5. Mickdrew

    Mickdrew Member

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    This is true. Cenk's position is not that Islam shouldn't be criticized. He is a non-believer after all, and thinks all religions are ridiculous.
    What he objects to is the assumption by people like Harris that Islam is more dangerous than any other Judeo-Christian religion.
     
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  6. idav

    idav Being
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    I don't see anything wrong with this position.
     
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  7. icehorse

    icehorse Well-Known Member
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    I agree with the basics of the OP. I usually agree with Harris and sometimes I don't. But I ALWAYS think he's sincerely trying to approach topics from a critical thinking perspective. Of course he's a fine speaker and writer, and so his rhetoric is usually good, but that said, I think his rhetoric is designed not to obfuscate, but to enlighten and challenge.

    And yes, this approach is refreshing when set against the tsunami of obfuscation, lies, and half-truths we typically see.
     
  8. Grace H.

    Grace H. New Member

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    Thank you for the thoughtful insight. As someone who first of all simply wants to follow their arguments, I had a trouble discerning whether Harris and Uygur were really being fair to each other or not, though I sympathized more with Harris in his methodological way to attempt to lay out his arguments in a logical way without ideological assumptions. I think Harris was speaking as if he was in a philosophy seminar (as best as he could with Uygur), whereas Uygur wanted Harris to "come clean" with a simple political, ideological position - as a liberal, conservative, neither, or what. Harris does not have a simply defined political position, though we can safely say that he is a liberal democrat with certain views that do not match up to usual liberal takes on few issues. Uygur is confused by this and wants to argue ideologically, whereas Harris wants to argue philosophically.

    I am still thinking about how I should understand this debate. I have more work to do, such as reading the e-mails between Chomsky and Harris. What do you think about those e-mails?
     
    #8 Grace H., Aug 3, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
  9. YmirGF

    YmirGF Bodhisattva
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    I can't say that I've ever been deeply impressed with Cenk Uygur's rants before. His ideas are pretty low hanging fruit, to be generous. That was quite the amusing dustup he had with the insane Alex Jones just recently at the RNC.

    I feel your pain. Is it really a serious discussion? Uygur and Harris can hardly be considered as intellectual equals, LOL.

    I thought they were utterly bizarre, quite frankly. They were very far from the Chomster's best efforts. I don't think he considered Harris' views worthy of serious rebuttal or he has just gotten old and should retire.
     
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