Skeptical recursion

June 26, 2010

Skeptical of the community of skeptics today; I’m writing something that ought to be a post on Rational Skepticism, but I am dubious about the response it will get. So I’m not bothering with them.

I bring these things on myself, anyway. The topic of abortion came up and I have some considered opinions on the subject, although they are subject to change (and they did, slightly). When the discussion evolved to address rape in particular, it’s a real hot button, and my somewhat Vulcan ways didn’t come off well. It’s ironic to consider a bunch of skeptics who normally despise the fallacious emotional appeal outright demanding it…and knowing that it’s just what they need to dismiss my argument.

Just adds to my sense that it was all false, that they harp on rape like capital punishment advocates harp on their favorite clear anecdotes. Poster boys for absolutism. The harping itself seems insincere.

So, since I am left questioning the merits of that supposed community where agreement is requisite, I will post my parting shot here. The last word to me on the subject was again a demand that I show sympathy and compassion for the rape victim, that to do any less is repugnant.

I should also add that another poster challenged me to imagine myself as a child of rape and what damage that would do to me. For them, it’s an easy decision; they’d rather not have been born. I am suspicious of easy decisions about such things as this, although there is no inherent merit to being difficult.

If anyone here had mentioned being a victim of rape, I would try to express sympathy for them, but text and emoticons wouldn’t seem good enough. The mere idea of rape is outrageous to me. I admit I have zero experience of rape in my circle of friends and family, so as per [someone else’s] question I googled ‘children of rape’ and spent some time reading at places like here and here and more. If I knew anyone who had been, and needed an abortion, I would walk them to the clinic. If some pro-lifer got in my way, or if I ever ran across the rapist of someone I cared about, well…someone would get hurt.

At the same time, I have enough detachment left to step back from the outrage and understand that building policy and ethics on these ideas is not necessarily a good idea. This is vengeance Old Testament style. I wouldn’t want that guiding me any more than Leviticus should dictate my feelings toward homosexuals. So, there is sympathy for the victim and then there is determining what to do. I see no inherent value in entangling them, any more than I find believers’ warm fuzzies over their god-concepts useful in determining the truth about them.

And I can also see how the stigma of rape is influenced by culture from what I’ve been reading. How I would respond to being a child of rape would depend a great deal on how my society responds to it. Rape of women is patriarchy; but the stigma attached to it may also be patriarchy, to some degree. This was one of the strangest reads on the subject for me. I can understand looking at the URL and dismissing it as some right to life trash. But it might be more interesting to read it, even if you end up still disagreeing with it. And I don’t completely agree with them, by any stretch.

So, I didn’t post this there because my sincerity has already been challenged, and I suspect it will be again — that they’re asking me to speak the words about despising rape so they can sneer and say ‘I don’t think so’. Because I’ve already been insulted and the moderators seem inclined to let it slide. And because I know I shouldn’t value them any more than they value me, which is to say, not much.

It’s times like these that I most value being reared as a skeptic by Nietzsche, thanks to Dave. When I see the lies in society and community, when I am most alone and I realize that I enjoy it. It’s not so much memorization of the work, my memory’s bad enough; it’s putting value on solitude, a message I seldom find in society even as technology gives us the means.

It is the business of the very few to be independent; it is a privilege of the strong. And whoever attempts it, even with the best right, but without being obliged to do so, proves that he is probably not only strong, but also daring beyond measure. He enters into a labyrinth, he multiplies a thousandfold the dangers which life in itself already brings with it; not the least of which is that no one can see how and where he loses his way, becomes isolated, and is torn piecemeal by some minotaur of conscience. Supposing such a one comes to grief, it is so far from the comprehension of men that they neither feel it, nor sympathize with it. And he cannot any longer go back! He cannot even go back again to the sympathy of men! — Beyond Good and Evil



  1. I remember those conversations, long ago. I am still a Nietzschean of course, I never abandoned that. But perhaps we’d both been happier (though unfortunately sheep like) had we never had those conversations. Ultimately, I’d rather be wise than a happy idiot.

    Here’s a bit of advice from the pagans, from the Havamal:

    It is best for man to be middle-wise,
    Not over cunning and clever:
    The learned man whose lore is deep
    Is seldom happy at heart.

    too late for us though!

    • I keep telling myself that, too, that I’d rather know and be unhappy that not know and be happy. I question that at times. But it’s not as if I am nonstop miserable as a result. There are just moments where I envy others’ blind certainty. Ignorance is bliss.

      Interesting how the Havamal captures the same sentiment as Nietzsche. Seems distilled down to the essence.

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