Frater Novae Res (fraternovaeres) wrote in amst3920,
Frater Novae Res
fraternovaeres
amst3920

Tolerance and the War of Values

Today in "Culture Wars," we talked a bit about actions that exclude others from possibilities they may want to actualize. In particular, one student vented his frustration at last year's campus-wide strike. "We're all here for one reason, to get an education. What gives them the right to interfere with my education by going on strike?" I soaked in this sentiment, and thought about how the violence of values was playing itself out in the classroom.

"Whoever sets up a value, takes a position against a disvalue by that very action. The boundless tolerance and the neutrality of standpoints and viewpoints turn themselves very quickly into their opposite, into enmity, as soon as enforcement is carried out in earnest."

- Carl Schmitt.

The student had given us a lot of information in the course of his short jeremiad. He acknowledged the existence of a hierarchy of values, and of an absolute, subordinating value (namely, the education of students, in the context of the university). Other values had to bow to this absolute value. His grievance concerned the existence of other, alternative hierarchies of value with different subordinating values at the top. The existence of these alternative values entailed conflict that informed real, material conflict (his ability to receive an education in a way satisfactory to him). Schmitt, in the above quotation, demonstrates how the assertion of values brings about conflict and violence. What is most interesting is the way in which he ties "tolerance" into the equation.

Tolerance is one of those values that are prized in post-modernity. Indeed, it's difficult to imagine someone criticizing tolerance in a post-20th century world without being heavily criticized and marginalized. One of the lessons of the 20th century that we have learned is that in order to avoid genocide, we must tolerate the customs, practices, and especially values of others. But what does it mean "to tolerate"? Merriam-Webster's gives one definition as "to allow to be or to be done without prohibition, hindrance, or contradiction." To tolerate something, we must allow it to exist, to manifest itself, to its fullest extent. To that end, tolerance is seen as a means of bringing about an end of conflict and violence. After all, if we allow everyone and everything to exist "without prohibition, hindrance, or contradiction," then that excludes the possibility of violence, right?

"Because of the ambivalence of values, that aggressiveness will not cease to renew its virulence, whenever values as such are brought by actual people to bear upon other people as real as they."

- Carl Schmitt.

To tolerate all values, even those that contradict our own, we must allow them to exist. The paradox in this is that for a value to exist, it must bring itself to bear in the real world in actual, tangible ways, and when two values conflict with one another, their actualization will inexorably precipitate conflict. Tolerance, then, is not a means of preventing conflict and violence. It facilitates and legitimizes that conflict. Attempts to inhibit conflict originate from an intolerant position. In order to put an end to the conflict of values (and so the physical violence, on whatever scale, entailed by that conflict), either all values must be devalued (the post-modern solution) or one hierarchy of values must be chosen as the single, universal hierarchy. So when people talk about the importance of "tolerance" as an end of conflict, are they telling us we should devalue all values, or that we should subordinate our values to a single, universal set of values? What kind of values are advocated in this second approach?

"However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. [...] Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the LORD your God."

- Deuteronomy, 20: 12,16-18.

To be tolerant, we must allow things to exist as they are, and to actualize themselves to their fullest extent. The challenge in this is that, by doing so, we permit irreconciliable conflict to persist. Who would say "Yes" to this conflict? Who would allow a genuine diversity of expression? In a time when "diversity" means conformity on all things that matter and "tolerance" means the annihilation of alternatives, who has the desire and the courage to defend true tolerance and true diversity?

"Heraclitus says (Fragment 53): 'Conflict is for all (that is present) the creator that causes to emerge, but (also) for all the dominant preserver. For it makes some to appear as gods, others as men; it creates (shows) some as slaves, others as freemen.'

"The polemos named here is a conflict that prevailed prior to everything divine and human, not a war in the human sense. This conflict, as Heraclitus thought it, first caused the realm of being to separate into opposites; it first gave rise to position and order of rank. In such separation cleavages, intervals, distances, and joints opened. In the conflict <Aus-einandersetzung, setting-apart> a world comes into being. (Conflict does not split, much less destroy unity. It constitutes unity, it is a binding-together, logos. Polemos and logos are the same.)"

- Martin Heidegger.
Tags: heidegger, schmitt, tolerance, values
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Michael,

The difficulty I have with your trend of thought is in seeing values as the bottom of being. If that's what you posit then different values will necessarily enter into conflict with each other--by definition. But that short-circuits an exploration of where values come from. Once you engage that exploration, then the question of conflict between values is more complicated. One can find conditions that lead to necessary conflict between values and other conditions in which that conflict is not necessitated.

My own view is that existential separation between individuals created by life in a market society creates the conditions in which values held by different individuals come up spontaneously in the form of representing absolute worlds of difference and so those values, if not necessarily unbridgeable, must pass through a void of being in order to be confronted one in terms of another. Even here, this void can be a-voided by certain means (I could say more but this gets rather long). In another social situation, where individuals' are interconnected in terms of their deepest sense of fate, either explicitly in the structure of society or in the freedom of a more primitive existence lived in the awareness of a natural ecology, then values are products (emphasis: products, not themselves the bottom) of a ground of being that is interconnected. And values become not the absolute representatives of individuals' worlds but more provisional--the ground is held not in the first instance by the values but by the felt web of interconnection that encompasses life and death.



or where they where one's sense of one's life is that it is intimately bound up with others, to such an extent that one faces brushes with death

Conflict

fraternovaeres

March 17 2008, 16:06:43 UTC 8 years ago Edited:  March 19 2008, 19:42:29 UTC

I think we may be getting away from the issue and flying into prose. I understand values as being ordered by a system of metaphysics. Is that what you mean by "bottom of being"? I think you'll find that I'm happy looking into where values come from (I spend a lot of time doing this on my own LJ, actually).

I think in many ways it ultimates comes down to what Schmitt tells us:

"Whoever sets up a value, takes a position against a disvalue by that very action. The boundless tolerance and the neutrality of standpoints and viewpoints turn themselves very quickly into their opposite, into enmity, as soon as enforcement is carried out in earnest."

- Carl Schmitt.

Let's get concrete and see how this plays out in reality. Jeff, whether as a devout Christian or a liberal secular humanist, subscribes to (in the former) or is ordered by (in the latter) Judeo-Christian metaphysics (monotheism, etc.) What's one of the values Jeff possesses?

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28, KJV.

Not unsurprisingly, Jeff believes in the fundamental equality of all people (despite race, class, or sex). Because of this, he feels that people should be treated equally in the material world as much as possible to the greatest extent possible. We can imagine how this value would exert itself in his life. Now what does Schmitt tell us? In order for this value to be real, in order for it to actually exist, it must assert itself in reality. Values pine for actualization, as Schmitt tells us. And it is in that act, of setting up a value, that one "takes a position against a disvalue." Since Jeff truly believes in the equality of all people, then he positions himself against any value that would contradict his value of egalitarianism. For example, can we really imagine someone like Jeff being "okay" with racist ideas? The idea that any one race is inherently superior to another is repugnant to him, as an affront to what is to him a truth. If one of Jeff's kids describes a classmate as a "nigger," Jeff will probably chastise him severely. If a proposition to resegregate schools goes up for vote, Jeff will probably vote against it. His value of racial equality is in conflict with some other's value of racial inequality, and this conflict entails action on Jeff's part as his value pines for actualization. In this example, we're witnessing exactly what Schmitt describes as the enmity that erupts "as soon as enforcement [of values] is carried out in earnest."

Your example, as I understand it, doesn't get around this problem. You describe a "social situation, where individuals' are interconnected in terms of their deepest sense of fate, either explicitly in the structure of society or in the freedom of a more primitive existence lived in the awareness of a natural ecology." The first scenario is one in which everyone shares the same values. This is one of the two alternatives for "ending" conflict I described in the initial post. The "structure of society" enforces a single system of metaphysics with a universal system of values. Your second scenario sounds a lot like what Schmitt describes in the quotation above as "boundless tolerance and the neutrality of standpoints and viewpoints." When does Schmitt say this "boundless tolerance" breaks down?
Hi, Sorry. I haven't had time to respond. Will do so soon. David
Okay, I'm back. When you say "I understand values as being ordered by a system of metaphysics" I think a difference in our views enters in here. I tried to click on the link into your own LJ because I'd like to see how you look into where values come from but it wouldn't take me there so I'll respond here regardless. I assume that what you are saying is that in your view values come from the system of metaphysics that orders them.
I'm taking the question of where they come from a step back from that. Perhaps I'm posing the question: where do systems of metaphysics come from? And here is my answer: there are very complicated historical developments behind them but in the most general way I understand metaphysics as an attempt to map--or more accurately to "read"--the universe one finds oneself in (at least in part through the prior metaphysical work of one's culture).
This reading is itself not free of prior disposition--there is patterning in the association of people with their metaphysical systems that we can attempt to analyze. There are many factors that go into prior disposition (such as class position, one's inclination to question received views --to name two disparate important ones that immediately come to mind).
Thinking about it, I suppose that Nietszche explores this too. I'm thinking of the slave mentality as arising, in his analysis, from certain ancient power relations. But the main factor in the prior disposition that is critical for our discussion is something he doesn't address. What this factor governs that is important here is not the content of the system but the relation between the system and the person who holds it.
I believe there is a natural tendency for a person to organize reality tightly around axes of good and bad that relate to the furthering of the life and the avoidance of the death of the boundaries of being that, most intimately, one identifies with. In modern western cultures that boundary is around the individual (with some extension made for famiies). At other times and in other cultures that boundary has often been extended to include other people and/or the natural environment.
This circumference of intimate identity arises mainly from the material circumstances that create the pattern of experience of how one faces the contingencies of life and death jointly or separately with other beings. And, whatever the shape of that deep identity comes to be, it is prior to values and prior to the system of metaphysics that gives rise to values. Finally, I believe it is this prior shape of identity that governs the boundaries where values come into irreconcilable conflict.
Well, you look at this as a "scenario in which everyone shares the same values." I suppose you could describe it that way but when you say the structure of society enforces it, it does so not as an idea or metaphysics but apart from anything intentional. Still, let's say its a situation in which everyone shares the same values. Where I'm coming from is to point the finger at the structure (prior to the values and metaphysics) that, where values necessarily collide, doesn't allow this to happen, as a human construction and choice, and a detrimental one. Where I see you coming from is to say that this conflict of values is always the case so let's simply accept it.
On the natural ecology thing--I'm less philosophically grounded with this but I do not see it as an attitude of boundless tolerance. It, like the first, arises in a situation which structures experience, prior to values and metaphysics, to, in turn, structure identity so that values do not arise in spheres of absolute difference from the values of others.
continued briefly...
I tried to click on the link into your own LJ because I'd like to see how you look into where values come from but it wouldn't take me there so I'll respond here regardless.

If you Friend me, I'll Friend you back. That will give you access to all of my posts. You mentioned that you'd be interested to learn more about my particular perspective on a number of issues. My LJ is a great place to go. I've even been writing on more general terms, these days.

This circumference of intimate identity arises mainly from the material circumstances that create the pattern of experience of how one faces the contingencies of life and death jointly or separately with other beings. And, whatever the shape of that deep identity comes to be, it is prior to values and prior to the system of metaphysics that gives rise to values.

This gets into the essence vs. existence debate. You're defining individual identity as a construct that results from external factors (e.g., material circumstances, experiences, etc.). This, and its accompanying tabula rasa philosophy, tends to be more popular with those on the Left in my experience. What about an essentialist view?

"Against the doctrine of the influence of the milieu and external causes: the force within is infinitely superior; much that looks like external influence is merely its adaptation from within. The very same milieus can be interpreted and exploited in opposite ways: there are no facts.-- A genius is not explained in terms of such conditions of his origin."

- Nietzsche, The Will to Power sec. 70.

Where I'm coming from is to point the finger at the structure (prior to the values and metaphysics) that, where values necessarily collide, doesn't allow this to happen, as a human construction and choice, and a detrimental one.

Do our institutions give rise to values and metaphysics, or do values and metaphysics give rise to our institutions? If values and metaphysics don't give rise to our structures, then what does? Are these structures random creations? Are they causa sui? Is there something else that inspires that creative process? If structure precedes values, then are people without values until subjected to a structure?

If two values oppose one another and their expression will necessarily result in conflict (as you admit above), then in what ways can this conflict be prevented in real terms? You say the structure "doesn't allow this to happen." How? Again, if a value doesn't bring itself to bear on reality, in real material terms, then in what way can it be said to exist? You go a step further and add that the structure "doesn't allow this to happen" because value conflict is "detrimental." This is itself a value judgment. To assert that conflict is bad is a value. In your example, this value against value conflict limits human expression in a universal, total way. It also reveals that, despite the effort to place structure before values, there are values behind the structure, informing it. Which values are those? I discussed this in the original post, too. Which values forbid any conflict or competition, that resist diversity of expression? What kind of metaphysics give rise to those values?
A couple things. First, to simply assert essence over existence doesn't really explain anything. The Nietszche quote doesn't explain anything either, it just asserts. I believe in essence, if you want to call it that. As a sometime Zen practitioner and also taking in things from the Jung tradition I've observed that people are born with and develop out of different states of the soul. But to simply say that essence is all there is or even that it is all that is interesting to look at strikes me as simply programmatic and also not very good observation.
My focus on "existence" is somewhat different in what I've been writing about here than typical left "constructivism." My concern here is not with the content of myth, value, ideas but the relationship between that content and identity. And that is where I say that structure is what germinates its configuration.
Let me explain how I'm using structure. You are assuming it is the same thing as institution. It isn't. It may coincide with institution, and also have meanings attached to it, but at the level at which it operates on the relation between metaphysics and identity it is not a meaning. A parallel might be useful. I came across this in a book by an author I'm blanking out on. He was describing Arabic poetry among nomads in what is now Saudi Arabia about 1500 years ago. He described quite sensitively the feeling of wistful transience that pervades that poetry and, presumably the feeling of life, of that people, which he was able to trace to the structure of life organized by movement from oasis to oasis amid the inhospitable sands of the desert. That topography is not an institution but it functions as a structure asserting certain demands in the type of life compatible with it and from those demands, creating certain contours of felt experience. (I suppose you might argue that it is a value to live as a nomad in that circumstance and I don't know enough of the situation to refute that but its plausible that that kind of life was the only one viable in that region at that time--and we have to make that assumption for this analogy to work). Different nomads with different depths of soul might have different responses of soul to that general condition but there would still be a general emotional complexion shared.
I am saying that individualism is a similar condition of nature. We may have created it (as we can't create a desert) but it still functions as nature once established. Also we may attach mythic meanings to it--which has effects, but the structure of individualism also affects us prior to the meaning. Can you see this? You are standing on the edge of a cliff. Somebody is coming to push you off. You stand alone. But if you are standing on the edge of that cliff along side people whose lives have become interdependent with your own, chances are you feel you are facing death together with others. This isn't about asserting a value; its what structure does to give a shape to our implicit identity.

A few other points I'll comment on vv. your last email.

First, to simply assert essence over existence doesn't really explain anything. The Nietszche quote doesn't explain anything either, it just asserts.

Nietzsche's pointing out one of the problems with explaining the quality or condition of things purely in terms of their environment (the circumstances of their existence, or the structure in which they exist). That's what I see your argument about structure doing it. You are tracing the conception of metaphysics and the formation of values to the existence of a structure, and denying that metaphysics and values precede and inform structure. Structure, then, becomes the primary influence in human feeling, thinking, and behavior, with metaphysics and values as secondary, even unnecessary, additions. This is where Nietzsche comes in. If nothing precedes structure, the argument from structure (existence, circumstance, nature, etc.) is incapable of addressing the diversity of outcomes born from a single structure, since a single structure should turn out a single result if there is nothing to differentiate the input beforehand. Our life experience, as Nietzsche observes, refutes this argument from structure, because the diversity of results from a single structure implies that something precedes that structure.

This isn't about asserting a value; its what structure does to give a shape to our implicit identity.

This is also where Nietzsche comes in. He's saying that our environmental circumstances (structure) don't determine our essence. Rather, our essence reckons with that structure and expresses itself by means of that structure. Nietzsche and I see something preceding structure, you see structure as preceding all. If that's the case, as mentioned above, you have to explain the diversity of outcome. This also involves, as I've said elsewhere, the origin of structure. I understand that you mean more by "structure" than institutions. You mean the circumstances of one's environment or existence, which includes one's natural environment (such as a desert), class status, family arrangement, the laws of one's society, etc. You've said that nature establishes the circumstances of existence (e.g., individualism). You give the cliff example as evidence. Here, our "Why? To what end?" breaks the scenario down once more. What do you mean that nature established that communal social scenario? Did it just pop out of nowhere? Is it "radically uncreated," having always existed? Probably not. If you mean that it is the result of a gradual process, what was that process? What informed it? In short, why are these people living in a community in which they live interdependently? The answer I hear you giving is, "Because, that's nature." Is that all there is to it? What I keep coming back to is this: that if you start to question the origin of the structures you're describing, and how people conduct themselves in those structures, you will find something preceding that structure that shapes their behavior and the results of that behavior in that structure. I am not denying that structure brings an influence to bear on our values. It does. I am arguing that structure is not the "unmoved mover" you make it to be.
Michael,

I couldn’t stick around to talk to you after class. Just wanted to say so long and wish you well for the summer. Thanks for your support during all the Alan stuff. I feel the way things turned out we were not totally successful, but not totally unsuccessful either—some of the spirit kept on which counts for something. Anyway, take care. Let’s keep in touch.

David
Do our institutions give rise to values and metaphysics, or do values and metaphysics give rise to our institutions? If values and metaphysics don't give rise to our structures, then what does? Are these structures random creations? Are they causa sui? Is there something else that inspires that creative process?

I think I explained that structures in the way I'm using the term right now are like nature. They are not creations in the sense of being intentional endeavors (well sometimes they are but the effect they have that I'm interested in is not a product of their intention).

If structure precedes values, then are people without values until subjected to a structure?

There is always structure, so this is a little hard to get my head around. But I would say, yes, values don't arise except influenced by structure.

If two values oppose one another and their expression will necessarily result in conflict (as you admit above), then in what ways can this conflict be prevented in real terms?

I said it necessarily results in conflict (barring extraordinary measures to avoid it which I've mentioned but not elaborated) only under certain structural conditions--not under all conditions. That's my point.

You say the structure "doesn't allow this to happen." How? Again, if a value doesn't bring itself to bear on reality, in real material terms, then in what way can it be said to exist?

You go a step further and add that the structure "doesn't allow this to happen" because value conflict is "detrimental." This is itself a value judgment. To assert that conflict is bad is a value.

Structure doesn't allow this to happen: true. Value conflict is detrimental: true. Structure doesn't allow this happen because value conflict is detrimental: not true and I didn't say that. To assert that conflict is bad is a value: true. But that is unrelated to the effect that structure has (to not allow this coming together of values).

In your example, this value against value conflict limits human expression in a universal, total way. It also reveals that, despite the effort to place structure before values, there are values behind the structure, informing it. Which values are those? I discussed this in the original post, too. Which values forbid any conflict or competition, that resist diversity of expression? What kind of metaphysics give rise to those values?

As I've been saying, my value orientation concerning structure doesn't imply a value behind structure--its a value attached to structure.

Anyway, that's enough for now.

The Source

fraternovaeres

March 24 2008, 13:12:34 UTC 8 years ago Edited:  March 24 2008, 15:24:10 UTC

I think I explained that structures in the way I'm using the term right now are like nature.

If you're talking about nature as your "structure," then you're talking about the "laws of nature," right? Are these laws self-evident, or do we thrust laws upon nature?

I said it necessarily results in conflict (barring extraordinary measures to avoid it which I've mentioned but not elaborated) only under certain structural conditions--not under all conditions. That's my point.

It's not enough to say "certain structural conditions" or that "the structure prevents conflict." How can this happen in real, material terms? I've used a few real life, material examples demonstrating how value conflict can arise. What are some real life, material examples of how it can be prevented without devaluing all values or subordinating all other values to a single, universal hierarchy of values?

Structure doesn't allow this happen because value conflict is detrimental: not true and I didn't say that.

You said, "Where I'm coming from is to point the finger at the structure (prior to the values and metaphysics) that, where values necessarily collide, doesn't allow this to happen, as a human construction and choice, and a detrimental one." One definition of "as" as a conjunction is "since, or because." If the structure isn't preventing the conflict on the grounds that conflict is detrimental, why level that unrelated value judgment against conflict? Further, if the structure prevents conflict for some reason other than its detrimental nature, what is it? What is the reason "structure" prevents conflict? I think you'll have a different time answering this once you start thinking in concrete, material terms. This also questions the ontology of structure itself. Does structure happen to prevent conflict as a curious circumstance, or is there a reason for it? And if there's a reason for it, then does that mean the structure was built for that reason? If it was built for a reason, what values informed that reason?
On your example of a conflict of values between belief in equality and in inequality: again, the metaphysical origins for these two views are complex but what to my mind is most significant is the context of a radically individualistic social structure in which the views confront each other. In this context (without the identities of the adherents somehow finding a way to partly encompass each other), I agree with you that there is no possibility of compromise "as values pine for actualization" as a "disvalue" of another value. But, again, this binary situation occurs in a particular context.

Over and out.
Value conflicts occur beyond the individual plane. Groups espouse values, too, whether that group is a city council, church, MADD, or even a nation. In nationalism, for example, the individual is subordinated to the values of the nation. And individual isn't an individual person, he is a Frenchman or a German. And just as groups enforce values, so too are value conflicts produced when two groups enforce opposing values. This can escalate to the level of actual war, but value conflict on this plane can be expressed in other ways as well (e.g., propaganda, limiting or prohibiting trade with a country, stationing military troops in a country, etc.). Subordinating individuals to a structure doesn't prevent values from conflicting with one another. It opens up a new plane on which they can conflict.