Re: [xmca] Action Research and its relationship to SCHAT - Whiggism?

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Sun Apr 01 2007 - 09:45:44 PDT

Odd coincidence leads me to comment on this note, Jay. Particularly about
"What bothers me is that people don't
THINK about moral values."

We went to see "Amazing Grace" last night. About William Wilberforce and the
campaign to
end the slave trade. A very hollywood costume film and in that way
unsatisfying, with the
horrors and immorality of slavery present only indirectly -- it was the
problem of British indifference
and their struggles over morality versus prosperity that was the focus, in
particular, the intensity
and persistence of Wilberforce.

But the ending, upon reflection (probably insufficient reflection!) struck
me as really interesting. After
a decades long campaign on moral grounds, that made some, but little
headway, even with massive
documentation of what was going on and its human toll, an the need for
Christian morality, etc., what
actually created the tipping point was a convergence of changing
geopolitical economic struggles and
patriotism of the "England uber alles" variety. That is, with Pitt's
connivance, a law was passed that
allowed British privateers to attack ships flying the American flag as a
"neutral" country in the ongoing
European wars thus depriving the British profiteering from the trade of
their lucre. This device, carried
out INDIRECTLY (passim David's note re educational strategy) by an obscure
politician recruited by
Pitt (so the story goes), plus some chicanery that got the pro-slave
profiteers out of town so the vote could
pass , is what worked. That, and the appeal to British patriotism. NOT
accepted morality.

Interesting concerning issues of individual human agency as well.
Wilberforce was acting on (what is portrayed
as overthetop) moral grounds and was portrayed as almost pathologically

But what struck me most forcefully was the political-economic explanation
for the British move to end the slave
trade, and the feebleness of occupying the moral high ground in the process.

On 3/31/07, Jay Lemke <> wrote:
> (1) Well, there's neo-con's and neo-conmen. There are those who
> cynically invoke the great spirits while they rob the public purse
> and pursue their own ends. And there are others who really want to
> believe in those magic ideals so much that they probably do.
> (2) A good point. People get fanatical about symbols that stand for
> things they're not sure are still secure, or really know in their
> hearts are long gone. Maybe people even voted for Bush II because
> they wished America could still be a place that didn't need a
> president any smarter than him.
> JAY.
> At 09:23 PM 3/31/2007, you wrote:
> >I agree with everything you say here and actually found it an
> >enjoyable read, Jay.
> >Don't you think it interesting that neo-conservatives promote
> >absolute loyalty to big, abstract symbols like God, Family and
> >Country, but meanwhile (1) I don't think the neo-cons themselves
> >believe in these entities, (2) there is no longer a homogeneous
> >closed way of life behind these symbols? These Symbols are used in
> >an instrumental way to prevent that "dangerous" discussion you refer to.
> >Andy
> >At 05:46 PM 31/03/2007 -0400, you wrote:
> >
> >>After a long absence, a short reply.
> >>
> >>One issue is whether Christianity, some people's ideas about
> >>family, and some ideals of democracy are actually worth defending.
> >>Frankly, I don't think that any of the ones you listed are worth
> >>defending or are even very thoughtfully 'moral'. When I say this,
> >>or attack them (rarely in public), I mean the institutionalized
> >>ideologies they are cover terms for. I think that love within a
> >>family, or the principle of the Golden Rule, or Jesus' stance on
> >>the accumulation of wealth, or the notion that rulers should be
> >>accountable to the ruled are all great ideas and worth promoting
> >>and even defending. The problem is that what social conservatives
> >>support are the bigger ideologies, and those are riddled with
> >>horrors. What bothers me is that people don't THINK about moral
> >>values. Just a little critical thought and you have to rip the big
> >>pictures apart and salvage what's worth defending, but too many
> >>people are afraid that if you rip apart the package, the universe fails.
> >>
> >>So all critical thinking about what is really moral is labeled
> >>moral relativism, or egoism. The notion that people can think
> >>intelligently and make decisions about what is and is not moral is
> >>seen as dangerous. And it is dangerous. But it's a risk I think
> >>needs to be taken in the name of a higher standard of justice and
> >>morality than the one we currently have. It is also a risk that is
> >>at the foundation of Christian theology (moral free will), but
> >>which somehow gets short-circuited.
> >>
> >>There is no such thing as moral relativism, nor any thoughtful
> >>person who has ever espoused it. Not if it means what those who
> >>hate it or fear it mean by it. No one believes that all possible
> >>views of what is moral and what is not are equally valid. That's
> >>crazy. One can reasonably believe that you should not dismiss a
> >>different view out of hand, especially if it has had a long history
> >>in a different cultural community. But on the evidence of our own
> >>community, not all that we believe to be moral really is moral, and
> >>so not all that other cultures believe to be moral will be, either.
> >>It is also reasonable to believe that there are no universal moral
> >>principles, like Euclidean axioms, from which correct choices can
> >>be derived in all times and places across the universe and aeons. I
> >>don't believe there are any such principles for physics, or for
> >>mathematics for that matter. Why would I believe in them for
> >>morality? They are a misleading temptation of our wish-fulfillment
> >>fantasies. Life would seem to be so much simpler if we had them.
> >>Why? because then we would be absolved of the awful responsibility
> >>of ultimate moral judgments. We could just pass the buck to God.
> >>And go quietly to hell.
> >>
> >>JAY.
> >>
> >>At 04:04 AM 1/29/2007, you wrote:
> >>>But Jay, the kind of rant against historical ladders which I think
> >>>you are fond of, signal to me and to social conservatives, a kind
> >>>of moral relativism which is a real life-on-earth-threatening
> >>>problem at the moment, a view which sustains a kind of egotism
> >>>which is eroding the very foundations of social life. Is modernism
> >>>of the Fordist variety the main enemy today? Jay, I am sure that
> >>>you are not such an egotist (you wouldn't be on xmca if you were),
> >>>but that is exactly how this rant against democracy and progress
> >>>sounds to those think that Christianity, family and democracy are
> >>>things worth defending, or those that think that unionism, social
> >>>solidarity, education, universal rights and public utilities are
> >>>worth defending.
> >>>
> >>>Andy
> >>>
> >>>A
> >>
> >>Jay Lemke
> >>Professor
> >>University of Michigan
> >>School of Education
> >>610 East University
> >>Ann Arbor, MI 48109
> >>
> >>Tel. 734-763-9276
> >>Email.
> >>Website. <>
> _______________________________________________
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Received on Sun Apr 1 10:48 PDT 2007

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