Earlier in the week, a commentator on View from the Right expressed an insight that I really appreciated. The post, “The truth that liberalism prohibits, even as it exploits it,” concerned a reader’s puzzlement concerning leftist promotion of homosexual “marriage.” Another reader then provided the following gem (with Auster’s comments bracketed in bold, as is his custom):
. . . The liberal psychologist Jonathan Haidt has done fascinating research into the moral psychology of liberals and traditional conservatives. He acknowledges that even many liberals find homosexuality deeply repulsive. He claims that liberals typically react by assuming that they are the one with the problem, and that they need to overcome their “bigoted” reaction by repressing the natural reaction of disgust. They see this as virtuous because they are allowing their “rational” egalitarian impulses to overcome their “irrational” and “bigoted” moral impulses. I think this partly explains the recent push towards the normalization of ever more bizarre forms of sexual expression like transsexuality. The more disgusting some deviant behavior is, the more the liberal can practice the virtues of tolerance and non-discrimination by accepting and promoting it. If the behavior is truly perverse and revolting, it is a heroic act to tolerate it and accept it, an act of liberal supererogation, as it were. [LA replies: That’s a new variation on Auster’s First Law! Under liberalism, the more vile and perverted an act is, the more virtuous it is to tolerate it.]
In the traditional morality of virtue, one attempts to exercise control over one’s baser desires and animal passions. One eventually learns to tame these passions, thereby achieving the kind of self-mastery that is necessary for spiritual development. The liberal, on the other hand, achieves a different kind of self-mastery. He learns to control and suppress his natural moral passions, so that he can forge a society in which all people are free to indulge their baser desires without fear of social censure.
Excellent comment. It’s often been said that liberalism inverts traditional morality. You have shown more precisely how this is the case. The traditionalist, in order to become a better person, restrains his baser behaviors. The liberal, in order to become a better person, restrains his belief in morality.
S. replies (before he saw my bolded response to him making the same point):
This phenomenon dovetails nicely with your theory that in a liberal society, the worse a designated victim class behaves the more forbidden it is to criticize it. The more obvious it becomes that some minority group is transgressing the bounds of decency and morality, the more heroically virtuous it is to tolerate their transgressions and to punish those who speak the truth.
Come to think of it, this phenomenon may lend some measure of credence to Steve Sailer’s “status competition” theory of liberal insanity. In any group of people with shared values and norms, there will be ideas about virtue and vice. Those who most embody the virtues will have enhanced social standing. Hence, in liberal society, the more tolerant and permissive you are of vile and revolting behaviors, the more you distance yourself from the benighted non-liberal and the more you demonstrate your virtues to your peer. If you can accept even outrageous offenses against decency and nature, you are the liberal version of Aristotle’s great souled man, able to expect much and receive much.
S. demonstrates in this comment how a degenerate form of Kantian morality perverts human nature. From what I have witnessed of our upside down contemporary world, I believe that S. analyzes finely.
In case you were wondering about Auster’s First Law of Majority-Minority Relations in Liberal Society, you may wish to read “Clarifying the First Law.”