Looking over the posts I’ve put up so far, this is what I see as the common threads:
“integrity” and “boundaries”.
These two issues are really two aspects of the same issue – an issue with no name, as near as I can tell. Historically, nobody ever appears to have cared enough (or perhaps been aware enough of the situation) to name this issue I’m struggling to comprehend.
The process of change is, of course, a process of tearing down boundaries for the purpose of redrawing them. The entity to be changed – whether it is conceptual or material – must first have a hole knocked into it somehow, before it can be redesigned. Its boundaries are redrawn. Its integrity must first be violated, then restored.
That redesign problem is what I mean when I use the word “imperialism”, in the phrase “intellectual imperialism” at the masthead of this blog. In the past, the process of change was ruled according to the law of “might makes right”. The idea that there is something wrong with this – change according to brute, unexamined force – is the essence of that slightly negative sound in the word “imperialism”. Imperial refers to the power of the royal house – an illegitimate power, when it comes to conquering neighboring nations; it is the power of brute force. It implies a victory of might over right.
I believe the same concept applies to intellectual constructs.
Change is inevitable. I think everyone agrees on this, even if they don’t like it. But does change have to be done according to the laws of “might makes right”?
The difficulty, of course, is that the power in contemporary ethical disputes comes not from a royal army, but from popular opinion. The thing that makes ethical boundaries difficult to defend in today’s America is that the places where the ethical boundaries are most in danger are often the same places where popular opinion is most in favor of those doing the destruction. It is hard to find the distinction between two aspects of deciding a given issue:
- “the question of the issue”
- “the question of how the issue ought to be decided”