Chapter 10 of Cynical Theories (2020) brings us to the conclusion of this important book. In the competitive marketplace of ideas, good, valuable, successful ideas like liberalism, capitalism and science rise to the level of knowledge. Bad, faddish, false ideas like Social Justice Theory are fake knowledge – they hide from the marketplace of ideas. Pluckrose and Lindsay masterfully exposes the proponents of these ideas for what they are –> WRONG.
Postmodern Theory and liberalism are opposites. Liberalism is a self-correcting, knowledge producing system of reason and evidence. Postmodernism is the antithesis because of its conspicuous unwillingness to engage in debate and “cancel” anyone attempting to engage its ideas as white fragility or privilege preserving. Critical Theory is bad, not just because it’s wrong/immoral (it is) but also because it attempts to cheat by avoiding the marketplace – it hides from the light of reason and evidence like a scattering cockroach.
I’m not exaggerating; well, maybe a little. The authors do have respect for the concerns, goals and motivation behind Social Justice but whole heartedly reject its applied turn. They lament the radical skepticism, nihilism and destructive cynicism attacking human Enlightenment (liberalism, rationalism and empiricism). They highlight what is considered knowledge and truth and what is not. The book, Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought (1992) articulates liberalism’s contribution to the “reality industry”. Liberal science referees conflicting claims to truth using two principles: 1) no one gets final say; and 2) no one has personal authority over knowledge (there is no racial or sexual knowledge, there’s just knowledge). We have freedom of belief and speech, but NOT freedom of knowledge. You are free to believe anything you wish and argue for anything you want, but to claim that such beliefs are knowledge and demand that they be respected as such is bullshit. It’s wrong to coddle humans by censoring certain ideas believed to cause psychological pain or “epistemic violence”. Historically oppressed groups get no special consideration in the battle for truth – everyone competes in the same marketplace of ideas – best ideas win.
The fundamental tenants of postmodernism go up in flames:
Knowledge is a social construct – no it’s not!
Discourse is merely the wielding of power – no it’s not!
Categories must be blurred because of oppression – nope.
Language is power and must be tightly restricted – nope.
Knowledge depends on culture – nope.
Group identity is the only thing that matters – nope.
Lindsay and Pluckrose warn that Social Justice thought is like gasoline on the identity politics fire of the extreme Right. Arguing that it is acceptable to be prejudiced against white people, men, heterosexual or cisgender people does not go over well with the far Right. It emboldens and enrages them.
They conclude the book with an important legal principle – secularism (separation of Church and State) – no matter how certain you may be that you are in possession of the truth, you have no right to impose your belief. We all have the inalienable right to reject the moral mandates of any ideology without blame. The belief that knowledge is just a cultural construct used to enforce power can be submitted to the marketplace of ideas. Social Justice thought should not be censored or ignored – it must be engaged and defeated in the marketplace of ideas so it can die a natural death. Let us arm ourselves with War Chest awareness that these “ideas are demonstrably bad, ethically incoherent and cannot withstand scrutiny without imploding and disappearing in a puff of contradictions”.
Finally, throughout this project I have scanned for push back on the book. There’s not much and its pretty tepid – for example:
If the authors are combatants in the culture wars – they are freedom fighters – Rambos of reason lighting up the dark, weak warriors of the tyrannical Social Justice Left.