Quick question: Is a lack of prejudice a sign of open-mindedness or empty headedness?
I’d say empty headedness. Writer Theodore Dalrymple would agree with me.
The Necessity of Pre-Conceived Ideas
In the span of twenty-nine very short essays–even shorter than his essays in Life at the Bottom–Theodore Dalrymple, in his book In Praise of Prejudice, constructs a compelling argument aimed at destroying the prejudice against prejudice.
This former psychiatrist and prison doctor who treated heroin addicts claims that prejudice is important to individuals and society. But that’s not all.
It’s absurd, even harmful, to expect people and communities to go about life without prejudices.
In fact, prejudices are the foundations for virtue. And lack of prejudice is the foundation for unbridled vice, arrogance and anarchy.
Read the following summaries of the twenty-nine chapters that make up Dalrymple’s book and see if you walk away questioning your own assumptions against prejudice. Then tell me what you think.
Prejudice Is Wrong, So Lack of Prejudice Is Right
The consequences of prejudice are brutal, backwards and barbaric. So, unprejudiced consequences must be compassionate, generous and thoughtful. Right? Wrong.
The Uses of Metaphysical Skepticism
The radical skeptic is not in search of truth but liberty–liberty to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. Thus, campaign “Eradicate All Prejudices.”
History Teaches Us Anything We Like
Historians manipulate history and facts to prove their points. Anti-prejudice activist twist it to prove their cases.
Why We Prefer the History of Disaster to that of Achievement
We prefer the history of nastiness over achievement so we can walk on high moral ground. This gives intellectuals something to think about and rectify.
The Effect of Pedagogy Without Prejudice
Children without authority or the benefit of experience learn that the world is about self-gratification. He becomes a slave to his likes and dislikes. His prejudices.
Prejudice Necessary to Family Life
Reformers forced changes to family based upon the consequences of an unhappy marriage and illegitimate children. However, families need traditions and prejudices to survive.
One Prejudice Always Replaced by Another
The prejudice of self-control and respect to authority is replaced by the prejudice of rebellion, antinomy, recklessness and self-indulgence. Remove a prejudice and another simply fills that vacuum.
The Cruel Effect of Not Instilling the Right Prejudices
No child can plot a sane, reasonable or productive life without guidance and instructions in the right prejudices. Wouldn’t it be better, for example, to instill in girls at an early age a prejudice that she should not have a child until she and the child’s father were able to offer that child a stable home?
The Inevitability of Prejudice
Again, remove one prejudice and it is replaced by another.
The Conventionality of Unconventionality
The habitual boundary breakers of a society–delinquents and criminals–are not so much objecting to any particular boundary. They’re simply objecting to the existence of boundaries. But the rejection of convention eventually becomes a convention itself. And the desire to escape from convention is itself a convention.
The Overestimation of Rationality in Choice
We can’t expect most people to use reason for every decision they make. Extreme skepticism would lead to a long series of intellectual and moral puzzles. Paralysis ensues. We need pre-conceived ideas to grease the wheels of life.
Authority Necessary to the Accumulation of Knowledge
Intellectual and moral authority is okay. We don’t have to learn or discover everything because it’s already done for us. If we accept this, we can move on. We don’t have to challenge every fact.
The Supposed Equality of All Opinions, Provided They Are One’s Own
Non-judgmental people claim: “One must form his own opinion. Otherwise he is not free.” And his opinion is valid simply because he’s formed it.
Custom Supposedly Wrong Because It Is Custom
Like convention, custom is rejected–not because of it’s content–but because it is a custom. Custom is the enemy of mankind, individuality, the non-judgmental say. One should be eccentric or rebellious to improve society. Come again?
A Partial Reading of Mill Leads to Unbridled Egotism
Reading Mill casually suggests to people that they are sovereign [read: free to conduct himself as he chooses] over their souls, leading to a dignity and ego constantly challenged–and volatile.
The Difficulty of Founding Common Decency on First Principles
Common decency in a world where all opinions are valid is absurd. At some point conflict will arise.
The Law of Conservation of Righteous Indignation, and It’s Connection to the Expansion of Human Rights
The clash of rights is inevitable if two people have conflicting desires. That’s why common decency won’t work in a world where all opinions are valid.
The Paradox of Radical Individualism Leading to Authoritarianism
When authority removes prejudices others fill it, namely radical individualism. Then, authority grows as it passes laws to suppress the dangerous and delinquent behavior of radical individualists. This leads to a nuclear-arms type race where both sides compete for superiority.
Radical Discrimination Being Bad, All Discrimination Is Bad
Typical statement by a non-judgmental person: There are two kinds of discrimination. Since one is bad and likely to lead to genocide, all discrimination must be bad.
Rejection of Prejudice Not a Good in Itself
We need certain prejudices to keep a balance between security and excitement. Wholesale rejection of prejudice leads to unbridled egotism, broken families and neglected children.
The Impossibility of the Mind as a Blank Slate
Doctors insist we are born with preconceived ideas and prejudices. Therefore, something must inform those ideas, grab their attention–or starve them.
The Ideal of Equality of Opportunity Necessary to a World Without Prejudice
Recent attempts to bring about equality have not been wholly happy. Take the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, for example. The Shining Path of Peru, had they not been defeated, would have committed similar atrocities.
Equality of Opportunity Inherently Totalitarian
However, in a world without prejudices, equality of opportunity means a power struggle between the haves and the have nots. Who’s prejudices are correct? Doesn’t matter. The more violent prevail.
The Rejection of Authority as Egotism
Nihilism– a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths–is the posture to repudiate everything and reject all authority. Except your own authority, of course. This is unworkable.
Prejudice Is a Requirement of Benevolence
Lack of prejudice produces unbridled egotism. And unbridled egotism–where my individual right is sovereign over everything, including yours–produces a level of extreme personal violence that exceeds the inhumanity of a nation in the throes of a civil war.
The Dire Social Effects of Abandoning Certain Prejudices
Neglect negative stereotypes that suggest violence and you end up with beaten women and permanently terrified children.
The Inescapability of Commandments of Which Justification Is Unprovable
We cannot question everything. Otherwise we have to question our questioning. And collapse in paralysis.
The Exercise of Judgment Unavoidable, Even in the Absence of Metaphysically Unassailable Principles, and Therefore Prejudices Necessary and Salutary
We cannot NOT make moral and absolute judgments. Otherwise, I’d find myself allowing my daughter to play with a neighbor child in the yard of a man with a sexual predation past…simply because I didn’t want to pass judgment.
No Virtue without Prejudice
No prejudice equals no judgment. God forbid if we jump to conclusions, judge adversely, stigmatize or stereotype. Sexual purity–or even safety–is at stake when a woman is in the presence of a known sexual predator. No prejudice equals no virtue.
So, tell me: ever read this book? Even if you haven’t, do you disagree with Dalrymple’s argument? Anything you’d like to add?
I loook forward to your thoughts. Brutal and all.