Friday, January 06, 2006

People aren't philosophical constructs

I lose patience when people turn discussions about concrete issues, like healthcare and homosexuality and gay rights into philosophical debates. We live in the here and now with real people living real lives with real problems. When I read articles or discussions by people who want to make positive change by actually getting off their arses and encouraging others to do the same, it gives me hope. When I see those same articles and discussions turned into circular, semantic debates, I grow weary.

It's not that I don't like a good philosophical debate (I can't get around it, really, with sons in the political and social sciences), it's just that there comes a time to be pragmatic and deal with the real world.

What got me started on this line of thinking was an interesting series of articles by Ronni Bennett about universal healthcare in the US and some discussions I had with others about gay rights. I realized that there is a time for intellectualizing and a time for doing. Actually, I've known this for a long time, but it seems to me that some people never get beyond the intellectualizing.

So what, if the idea of civilization and individual rights is only a societal construct? The philosophical point (if there ever is one) being that what we consider civilization and 'rights' are tenuous at best (given the rise and fall of inumerable civilizations before us with their own laws and rights) and that there is little use in championing human rights because rights don't really exist. From a philosophical point of view, it's correct. There's no such thing as a right to life or a right to freedom or a right to anything except in the context of what we as a society deem to be a right. Using such an argument, we may as well live in a constant state of chaos, despair and lawlessnes because, in the end, everything is a temporary construct of our current society.

Well, I'm sorry, but I don't live in a philosophical construct. It's too easy to let yourself off the hook for the ills of society if you remain in the philosophical realm. There's a time to stand up for what you believe in and get your hands dirty.


Simply Coll said...

I also believe that there are many areas that require action .. not more studies in regards to the action. Especially health care, day care, adequate housing and environmental conservation.

Sobeit said...

Yes, I think you are right, there is a time for thinking and a time for action. However I think before people can stand up for what they believe in and get their hands dirty, they must first be sure of what they stand for. On one extreme are the people who only talk but don't walk the walk, on the other extreme are the people who leap before they look.

ell said...

Hi Me. I agree that people need to clarify what they stand for. It's an ongoing process of gathering more information and educating oneself through dialogue with others. I don't have a problem with that. It's the people who ONLY stay in the philosophical realm of debate that bother me and that I was ranting about.

jane said...

i agree. i am more apt to do something about a problem than to constantly analyze the problem. i get frustrated with arguments that seem to go in endless circles and never seem to arrive at any point or conclusion. partially because i simply don't have the wherewithall to argue, but also i find that the best approach to solving a problem is by tackling it. it is only then that the real issues are going to surface, in the doing.