The Dog Whistle Dilemma

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Political polarization is bad enough, but sometimes partisan arguments are worse than merely polarizing. One example of this is the response to the controversial topic of political correctness and so-called “social justice warriors.”

Now, I’m not a huge fan of the term “social justice warriors” because—as a term that was initially a pejorative and is still primarily used that way—it carries a lot of baggage. But I do think that concerns about political correctness are legitimate, and I documented a lot of thinkers (primarily from the American left) who have agreed in recent months in Difficult Run’s most widely read article of 2015: When Social Justice Isn’t About Justice. This view—that political correctness, social justice activism, microagressions, tolerance, etc—have gone a little too far seems to be an emerging consensus. But there are still holdouts.

Not surprisingly, the holdouts come from within the social justice movement itself. One prominent, sympathetic voice is John Scalzi. He’s a best-selling, award-winning science fiction author who famously signed a multi-million-dollar publishing deal with Tor last year.1 He’s a prominent, influential voice on social justice issues, and according to him—and thousands who agree—there is no conceivable, legitimate concern to be had on this topic. For example, back in 2014, he wrote that:

“Political Correctness” is a catchphrase which today means one of two things. The first is, “I have done no substantial thinking on this topic in at least twenty years and therefore anything I say past this point cannot be treated with any seriousness.” The second is “It is more important for me to continue my ingrained bigotry than it is for you not to be denigrated or offended by my bigotry, because I am lazy and do not wish to be bothered.” If in fact you do not intend to convey either of these two things, you should not use, nor sign on to a document which uses, the phrase “political correctness.”

In November 2015, at precisely the time that opinion across much of the spectrum of American politics was starting to really take political correctness seriously as a threat, he wrote:

I’m always embarrassed for the people who use these phrases [“political correctness” and “social justice warriors”] thinking they’re cutting, when in fact what they signal to the rest of the world is that the utterer is dog-whistling to a low-wattage, bigoted rabble in lieu of making an actual argument.

You can immediately see the polarization and absolutism of Scalzi’s statements. If we take Scalzi’s argument at face value then we must write off folks like Andrew Sullivan, John McWhorter, Jeannie Suk, Jonathan Chait, Laura Kipnis, Asam Ahmad, Damon Linker, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt2 as ignorant bigots. That’s a pretty diverse list of gay and straight, male and female, white and black thinkers (almost none of whom are conservative or Republican), but in one fell swoop Scalzi says you can ignore anything they say. Which is the whole point: you can make the world a much simpler place by inventing reasons to completely ignore your opponents. This is what political polarization is all about. We’ve seen this before.

But when we look at the specifics of Scalzi’s argument, we see another problem. The key concept in Scalzi’s argument is the concept of dog whistling. A dog whistle is “a type of whistle that emits sound in the ultrasonic range, which people cannot hear but some other animals can, including dogs and domestic cats, and is used in their training.”3 So, in politics, the idea of dog whistling is that someone disguises racism behind a veneer of apparently neutrality. For example, they will talk about “thugs” (when discussing issues of race and crime, perhaps) as a stand in for just using the n-word. This accusation is true. It is a real thing that really happens.

The problem is that Scalzi isn’t leveling the accusation against a particular thing said by a particular person in a particular context. He is saying that anyone who says anything in any context about political correctness or social justice warriors is engaging in dog whistling.

Intended or not, the inevitable consequence of this move is that it subjectifies arguments. Making an argument about a person’s motivations or private beliefs is always tricky, but in most cases we can build a case by using publicly available, objective facts like their words, their behavior, the consequences of their actions, and so forth. But that’s not possible when we make categorical statements about the motivations and private beliefs of a wide range of people without any recourse to external facts. The only way to enact the total dog whistle accusation as Scalzi does is to abandon objectivity.

The case for abolition relied on objective claims like all people deserve human rights and human rights are incompatible with slavery as an institution. The 20 century civil rights movement also relied on objective claims such as segregation is incompatible with genuine racial equality. But the all-encompassing dog whistle accusation eschews recourse to any publicly available, objectively valid facts and so eschews objectivity itself.4

Why does this matter? It matters because once an argument becomes subjective, it no longer makes sense to talk about who is more correct. Instead, arguments inevitably devolve into contests to see who is more powerful. When objective truth is no longer a recourse, all that remains is appeal to power. 5

This makes the dog whistle accusation an ultimately self-defeating tool from the standpoint of genuine concern for social justice, because once the argument becomes a question of power, it is a foregone conclusion that it can no longer constitute a genuine challenge powers in high places. You cannot speak subjective truth to power because subjective truth is power.

The practical reality is that the ultimate consumers of social justice activism are nice, college-educated, open-minded, prosperous, white Americans who are desperate to find the magic words to say to absolve themselves of any perceived guilt from profiting off of historical exploitation or collaborating in ongoing, systemic oppression. Social justice activism, unmoored from sternly objectivist claims, cannot resist the universal solvent of American consumerism and is already far on its way to becoming just another luxury good. Social justice arguments rooted in subjectivism are no harder for elites to absorb and appropriate than any other cultural artifact, and when that happens the tactics, rhetoric, and infrastructure of social justice are deployed to serve the interests of those elites rather than to challenge them. This is true even when social justice ends up being deployed against minorities. Weapons, even rhetorical ones, don’t care who they are aimed at.

Consider Conor Friedersdorf’s recent Atlantic piece: Left Outside the Social-Justice Movement’s Small Tent. The story describes Mahad Olad’s journey into and then estrangement from social justice activism. Why? He had the temerity to question trigger warnings and attempts to shut down conservative speakers. The result? “I was accused of being outrageously insensitive and apparently made three activist cohorts have traumatic breakdowns,” (for questioning trigger warnings) and “I was accused of being a ‘respectable negro,’ ‘uncle tom,’ ‘local coon’ and defending university officials to continue to ‘systemically oppress minorities,” (for questioning silencing of conservative speakers).

This is just one example of social justice turning against minorities, but there are plenty more. There are articles like That awkward moment when I realized my white “liberal” friends were racists and The Unchecked Racism Of The Left And The Platinum Rule and The Disturbing Story Of Widespread Sexual Assault Allegations At A Major Progressive PR Firm and What Happens When a Prominent Male Feminist Is Accused of Rape?. 6

As long as the dog whistle accusation is used as a blanket condemnation of all who have the temerity to question social justice activism and political correctness, social justice will be subjectified and therefore vulnerable to subversion by the privileged.7 On the other hand, if the dog whistle accusation is only employed when there’s some kind of objective evidence for it, some bigots will get away with dog whistling because there won’t be enough convincing, objective evidence. This is the dog whistle dilemma, and it is intractable.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that our society is fully of intractable problems. The entire criminal justice system is a giant apparatus set up to confront exactly this kind of intractable problem. We balance the principle of presumed innocence and Miranda rights (to protect the innocent) against warrants and imprisonment (to punish the guilty) knowing full well we’re balancing incompatible interests. With fewer legal protections for the accused, we punish more of the guilt, but also more of the innocent. With more legal protections, we protect the innocent but also let the guilt get away. That’s not to say that we’re complacent about the tradeoff, and it’s certainly not to argue that we have the balance correct today. It’s simply to illustrate that the idea of an irreconcilable tradeoff between competing and incompatible values is not new.

The fatal flaw in the contemporary social justice movement is myopia. A criminal justice system that only cared about punishing the guilty would, in short order, discard all civil liberties in the pursuit of that objective, resulting in a nightmare.

No one wants to live in a society where sometimes murderers get away on a technicality. No one wants to live in that kind of society, that is, until we stop to really consider the alternative. A world where courts and prosecutors do not have to abide by the rule of law is even worse.

The same applies here. A world where some people can get away with racism as long as they cloak it in a thin veneer of plausible deniability is not anybody’s idea of a utopia. But a solution like Scalzi’s is even worse, because it’s not only a world riven by polarization and discord, but also a world where social justice itself becomes subjectified and then perverted to serve the interests of entrenched elites.

17 thoughts on “The Dog Whistle Dilemma”

  1. So not a blanket condemnation (although I doubt that’s what Scalzi really means), and not only objective evidence, and instead . . . .? The criminal justice system is not where I’d start, but you do and that’s fine but then where would you set the presumptions? The burden of proof? The standards of evidence? Recognizing that several of those choices, if not carefully considered, would be the practical equivalent of blanket condemnation or only objective evidence.

  2. “The only way to enact the total dog whistle accusation as Scalzi does is to abandon objectivity.”

    That’s the feature and not the bug of the methods employed by Scalzi and his ilk. They aren’t interested in a conversation or a discourse. We are bigots simply by refusing to swallow their assertions.

    Great article.

  3. I agree with your views here, but I’m getting the distinction you’re drawing between subjective and objective. At first you seem to suggest that this is something like the difference between an ad hominem argument and a regular (good) argument. But you allow that it’s sometimes worth arguing over whether someone is expressing bigotry covertly/implicitly. Then you say it’s about whether an argument appeals to “publicly available facts.” But I think someone like Scalzi would say that on the basis of publicly available facts, we know that “SJW” and “PC” are covert ways of expressing bigotry, just like “thug” is.

    Note that this doesn’t mean the person speaking necessarily *intended* to express bigotry. Our words can sometimes carry unintended meanings. I doubt Scalzi had in mind the distinction between the things we intend to say and the things our words actually mean. But one could use that distinction to defend him against your accusations of subjectivity–because the meanings of words are public, objective facts.

  4. Nice post. I think that’s what’s frustrating about the issue. You just can’t talk about it. You can’t question or offer alternative, nuanced points of view. The moment you question, it’s game over. You’re on the outside. It leads to what that recent Vox article discusses, “The Smug Style in American Liberalism.” When arguments are subjective, then your wrong argument is just beneath contempt, not worthy of a response. Your argument is just what once would expect from a bigoted hick. No room for give and take, just sneering.

  5. ” Rape and sexual assault, unlike universal dog whistles and microaggressions, are not subjective.”

    I’d argue that a lot of the hysteria over sexual assault and the “consent” laws are making these categories very subjective. In some circles, if a woman consents, but feels bad about it afterward, she can still claim assault. Heck, some feminist theory rests on the idea all heterosexual sex is rape.

  6. “When objective truth is no longer a recourse, all that remains is appeal to power.”

    I agree, and I would add that even if objective truth exists, it’s difficult to prove. But I’m less concerned about mob rule than you are. Mobs may temporarily prevail, but the universe resists our efforts to treat it as though two mutually exclusive propositions are equally viable. Eventually more viable courses of action will win out over less viable ones. As William James said, “Truth is what works,” and he could have added, “falsehood is what doesn’t work.” Far from subjective (despite frequent accusations of being so from those who are only superficially acquainted with it), a pragmatic conception of truth not only accounts for empiricism and rationalism, as other approaches do. It is the branch of epistemology that most robustly attempts to account for how humans fit into and affect the search for truth.

    The following introduction to pragmatism is a good one:

    http://philosophybites.com/2010/02/robert-talisse-on-pragmatism.html

  7. I don’t agree that you can’t talk about it, or even that Scalzi’s rule, if adopted, would make it so. His point is that there are some concepts which are going to seem salient only if you have certain attitudes or patterns of thought, and that what identifying “PC” as a major problem and talking about it using that language reveals is an unwillingness to reflect on your own biases. Since getting people to reflect on their biases is central to the justification of the acts identified as “PC”, he expects that people who complain about it aren’t willing to even try to understand, and so it isn’t worth explaining.

    I tentatively disagree, but I made a similar claim a while ago about the use of “commies”. If you’re still stuck in a mindset in which it makes any sense to complain about commies, your frame of reference is so badly out of date that you virtually have to be deliberately insulating yourself from actual information about threats. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about problems associated with deviating from your particular version of free-market capitalism, but that discussion should involve acknowledging that virtually everyone in America now supports some government involvement in markets, and basically nobody wants to go full-on Communist.

    Similarly, political correctness is why we don’t use “nigger” in polite company any more. Virtually everyone agrees that this is good, so everybody’s on the political correctness train to some extent. If you don’t find yourself wanting to introduce a different concept to distinguish between the political correctness which requires the abandonment of that term and the PC manifestations which you object to, you’re revealing that you think of this as sort of a scalar value. Scalzi thinks that assumption is very resistant to challenge and is wrong. That doesn’t mean that you can’t object to things you’re identifying as “too PC”, it just means that talking about them that way shows a lack of conceptual development necessary to support enough nuance to draw clear distinctions.

    My guess is that Scalzi is wrong–I suspect it is possible to think about the issue at length without abandoning the simple view of PC as a scalar value which can slide closer to or farther from requiring sensitivity. But I’m not quite willing to condemn him for thinking that, if you’re still using that old idea, you’ve been deliberately avoiding thinking about how these issues affect people. Sometimes things can seem so obvious from your own perspective that it seems like anyone who doesn’t see it similarly just refuses to think about it. I doubt he’s encountered anyone willing to show him that they still find the PC concept salient despite detailed consideration of the topic and genuine concern for the underprivileged, so I expect it would be difficult for him to diagnose his error more specifically than “arrogance”.

  8. christiankimball-

    So not a blanket condemnation (although I doubt that’s what Scalzi really means),

    I’d like to think that, if pressed, Scalzi would concede that his formulations are overly broad and would back down from their implications. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Exaggeration is legitimate and different tones make sense for different audiences. However, it’s up to him to actually follow through and do so (or not). In the meantime, the implications of his remarks can’t be simply dismissed because we assume he doesn’t mean what he said.

    And what I’m hoping for is a middle ground.

    Extreme 1: If you bring up political correctness, we assume you are ignorant and/or a bigot.

    Extreme 2: Everyone who claims to not be ignorant and not be a bigot must be taken at face value.

    What lies between these two extremes is what matters, when an accusation of dog whistling has to be made on the individual merits of a specific case, rather than by appeal to blanket categories.

    Which is why I think the parallels to criminal justice are natural. There’s a strain in social justice activism that puts so much emphasis on validating victims that all accused attackers are presumed guilty. Or, in an even closer parallel, there is the idea that all males are rapists as a category

    When you make these blanket accusations, you do (in practice) abandon objectivity for subjectivity.

  9. Atreus-

    Note that this doesn’t mean the person speaking necessarily *intended* to express bigotry. Our words can sometimes carry unintended meanings. I doubt Scalzi had in mind the distinction between the things we intend to say and the things our words actually mean. But one could use that distinction to defend him against your accusations of subjectivity–because the meanings of words are public, objective facts

    Couple of thoughts.

    I don’t think that “the meanings of words are public, objective facts” in and of themselves. Words–by themselves–are just sounds (verbal) or abstract images (written). Their meaning derives from context. To the extent that this meaning is publicly available (e.g. we all have public access to the common definition of ordinary words), it’s objective. (Or at least, objective like.) But if you take someone’s statements and interpret them in isolation from the conventional meaning, then this is actually radically subjective, because you’re in essence saying “These words mean what I say they mean.”

  10. Ivan-

    I’d argue that a lot of the hysteria over sexual assault and the “consent” laws are making these categories very subjective.

    You’re right about that, but–innovations aside–there are at least core definitions that are objective. And they haven’t been totally obscured. Yet.

  11. Carl-

    But I’m less concerned about mob rule than you are. Mobs may temporarily prevail…Eventually more viable courses of action will win out over less viable ones.

    This strikes me as a catastrophically bad idea. To cite just one example from history, the Soviet Union officially banned modern genetic theory until (if I recall correctly) nearly the 1970s. Which means that their efforts to create frost-resistant wheat strains prior to that point relied on just exposing wheat seeds to cold temperatures. Eventually, as you put it, the viable course (adopting modern genetics) won out. That’s the good news. The bad news is that literally tens of millions of innocent men, women, and children starved to death in the meantime. So much for relying on the eventual success of pragmatism. In the long run, pragmatism works (maybe), but, as Keynes said, “in the long run we’re all dead.”

    But I’m not even willing to grant that pragmatism is a triumphal march towards better and better believes and/or policies.

    “As William James said, “Truth is what works,” and he could have added, “falsehood is what doesn’t work.”

    Works to do what? Pragmatism, like utiliatarianism, is a vacuous paradigm that tries to sweep value questions under the rug. It’s entirely conceivable that if by “works” you mean “helps an oppressive majority maintain power” that pragmatism will do nothing except to lead to ever more efficient forms of despotism.

    I’m familiar with pragmatism, and there’s a lot about it that I like. But I think your trust in it goes beyond what is justified.

  12. Kelsey-

    I’m not quite willing to condemn him for thinking that, if you’re still using that old idea, you’ve been deliberately avoiding thinking about how these issues affect people.

    My point is not to condemn John Scalzi. I have nothing against him, personally. I like his writing a lot and I don’t doubt his good intentions. My concern is with the implications of a position that he has embraced. It’s entirely possible for good, reasonable people to adopt bad, unreasonable policies. So it’s important to separate a critique of the positions he has espoused from “condemning him.”

    Having said that: I simply don’t think his position is reasonable. There are too many people (see the list in my OP) who are sounding the alarm that political correctness has gone too far from a reasonable, well-informed standpoint.

    It may be the case that Scalzi simply hasn’t read any of them, and that’s forgivable. But it goes to my separation of attacking Scalzi (which I haven’t done and won’t do) and attacking his argument (which is ripe for critique). And the argument that “only people who are ignorant or bigoted criticize political correctness” cannot survive contact with the actual list of smart, rational, progressive folks who–coming from diverse backgrounds–have criticizing political correctness without being ignorant or bigoted.

    What’s more, I find that “Anyone who disagrees with me is a bigot or ignorant” is almost never a defensible position in practice, no matter which specific permutation you try.

  13. I don’t know if “trust” is the right word. I hope that people will choose positive outcomes and resist oppressive ones. What is positive and what is oppressive is for us to determine. The challenge that pragmatism points out is that we can’t really prove that Nazism and Communism are objectively bad. All we can say is that we don’t want to live in a world where they triumph. Fortunately, even that meager claim seems to have been good enough so far for freer societies to prevail, though their success is clearly not guaranteed.

    You point to the Soviet failure with wheat production, but you haven’t shown how that course of action was somehow pragmatist and the viable course was not. If anything it was the opposite of pragmatic, inasmuch as it was a small governing body imposing a non-pragmatic will upon others who would probably have supported genetic research.

    Rather than sweeping value questions under the rug, pragmatists care very deeply about them and actually point out constantly that what many scientists and philosophers have claimed are ‘objective’ truths are really their preferences and desires (values). Value judgements are front and center in pragmatic thought.

  14. Nathaniel:
    If your project is to challenge the extremes, (I agree that) the criminal justice system is a useful device.
    But if your project is to find some ground between the extremes, (I would suggest/my gut says that) the criminal justice system is not going to be very fruitful. Instead, two very different modes of discourse that suggest themselves are linguistics (since we’re talking about words that have new or changing meanings or are coding for something different), and employment law (which wrestles with group action vs individual action (see unions), fairness as in “fair labor practice”, and the idea of reasonable accommodation).

  15. Carl-

    You point to the Soviet failure with wheat production, but you haven’t shown how that course of action was somehow pragmatist…

    That wasn’t the point of the example.Here’s your original claim once again:

    I’m less concerned about mob rule than you are. Mobs may temporarily prevail, but the universe resists our efforts to treat it as though two mutually exclusive propositions are equally viable. Eventually more viable courses of action will win out over less viable ones.

    So, I”m worried about mob rule. You’re not (as much I as am) because it will be “temporary.” I point out that that temporary duration can still kill tens of millions of people, so it’s not really much comfort.

    what many scientists and philosophers have claimed are ‘objective’ truths are really their preferences and desires (values).

    I think it’s possible that you don’t distinguish clearly enough between ontology and epistemology. My perspective is objective (ontology) but favors intellectual humility (epistemology). In other words: there are real, objective truths (including about morality), but we don’t have direct or easy access to them.

    It seems like instead you favor a kind of outright subjectivism. I think this is a consequence of collapsing the two issues (epistemology and ontology) into one: since we can’t have direct access to moral truths (as an example) we conclude that they have no objective basis and thus are merely “preferences and desires.”

    I find this move unnecessary and self-contradictory (in terms of theory ) and dangerously enfeebling (in terms of practice). It’s unnecessary because we can get what we care about (intellectual humility) without embracing subjectivism. It’s self-contradictory because to assert subjectivism is to make an objective claim. I’m generally leery of self-contradictory philosophies because, once you’ve accepted one self-contradiction, you’ve cut an crucial anchor to rationality. And then, in practical terms, to suggest that opposition to (e.g.) totalitarian fascism is qualitatively the same as a popularity contest over favorite flavors of ice cream (i.e. a subjective popularity contest) is to severely undermine that opposition. It may seem an exaggeration to conflate mass murder with ice cream flavors, but that’s my point: the distinction is a value judgment. In an objectivist framework, it makes sense to assert that these are essentially different. In a subjectivist framework, it’s just a popularity contest that asserts mass murder is a weightier moral consideration than ice cream flavors because that’s all there is: popularity contests. I’m not sure any coherent moral statement is genuinely possible at all in this paradigm, but I am relatively confident that the practical consequence of asserting moral relativism is to sap much of the vitality of any movement that accepts that paradigm.

    As with questions of metaphor, where the population of people who are willing to die for something that is only a symbol is tiny, so to in this case the population of people willing to risk life and limb for ultimately subjectivist claims is vanishingly small.

  16. christiankimball-

    If your project is to challenge the extremes, (I agree that) the criminal justice system is a useful device.

    That is my project, at least in the blog post above. I think that the position, although extreme, has enough cultural legitimacy that it’s an important target.

    But I do agree that if the concern is how to specifically handle the dog whistle case (once we’ve moved away from the extremes), the criminal justice system ceases to be a good analog.

  17. “So, I’m worried about mob rule. You’re not (as much I as am) because it will be ‘temporary.’ I point out that that temporary duration can still kill tens of millions of people, so it’s not really much comfort.”

    Let me clarify. Of course I’m worried about the prospect of millions dying and of course I care very much about mob rule. But I find it unlikely that such periods of mob rule would destroy civilization altogether. It all depends on what you are claiming. You seem to be asserting that pragmatism is equivalent to mob rule. This is a distortion of the pragmatist position. It could just as easily be compared with the scientific method, which is widely regarded as the most reliable means we have of corroborating truth.

    I (and many other pragmatists) believe in objectivity in a very important sense. That is, I believe that we can establish things that seem to objectively occur in the same way when observed from all vantage points to which we have access. But I also hasten to clarify that we don’t (and probably never will) have access to all possible vantage points, not even if we were gods.

    “It seems like instead you favor a kind of outright subjectivism. I think this is a consequence of collapsing the two issues (epistemology and ontology) into one: since we can’t have direct access to moral truths (as an example) we conclude that they have no objective basis and thus are merely ‘preferences and desires.'”

    I admit that I haven’t been careful enough to prevent you from arriving at this conclusion, but it’s not accurate. When I spoke of scientists mistaking “preferences and desires” for truths, I had in mind a particular passage from Nietzsche that I think describes the _lack_ of epistemological humility well:

    “That which causes philosophers to be regarded half-distrustfully and half-mockingly, is not the oft-repeated discovery how innocent they are—how often and easily they make mistakes and lose their way, in short, how childish and childlike they are,—but that there is not enough honest dealing with them, whereas they all raise a loud and virtuous outcry when the problem of truthfulness is even hinted at in the remotest manner. They all pose as though their real opinions had been discovered and attained through the self-evolving of a cold, pure, divinely indifferent dialectic (in contrast to all sorts of mystics, who, fairer and foolisher, talk of ‘inspiration’), whereas, in fact, a prejudiced proposition, idea, or ‘suggestion,’ which is generally their heart’s desire abstracted and refined, is defended by them with arguments sought out after the event. They are all advocates who do not wish to be regarded as such, generally astute defenders, also, of their prejudices, which they dub ‘truths,’— and VERY far from having the conscience which bravely admits this to itself, very far from having the good taste of the courage which goes so far as to let this be understood, perhaps to warn friend or foe, or in cheerful confidence and self-ridicule.” (Beyond Good and Evil, 1:5)

    It would be more accurate to say that pragmatists are less concerned about ontology, not that they deny objectivity. Their take on objectivity varies. In fact, the link I shared above is a short interview with Robert Talisse, who, in contrast with pure relativists like Richard Rorty, classifies himself as an “anti-Rortyan pragmatist.” What they all seem to say is not that there is no such thing as objectivity, but that an orientation towards proving objectivity is missing the point. They believe it’s far more important to determine how things tend to function and work than to spend one’s time insisting that the truth is “out there.” If someone makes an objective claim, the pragmatist wants to ask what the outcome of believing this claim is–what the “cash value” of that assertion is and whether or not it helps us function in the real world. Many so-called objective claims can’t even pass this minimal bar. Hence, pragmatists are often wary of rationalist arguments for truth. They don’t deny such claims out of hand, but they generally insist that they should be subjected to empirical analysis.

    “I am relatively confident that the practical consequence of asserting moral relativism is to sap much of the vitality of any movement that accepts that paradigm.”

    The assertion of moral relativism is one that many pragmatists would disagree with, as I explained. And anything so liable to debilitate and render a movement ineffectual would be grounds for a pragmatist to abandon it. :-)

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