1. Do you think we should respect the beliefs of a racist or sexist person? Provide reasons. If possible, find a recent article or video that could be used to question this (for example, the July 2011 massacre by Norwegian “racist” Anders Breivik).

This will require a lot of review for me to decide on this issue, but for the moment I will apply Mill’s Harm Principle. The harm principle is used to define the extent to which an individual should be allowed to exercise his liberty. This principle states that the only acceptable reason for restricting a person’s liberty is to prevent harm to others. This next part is not relevant here, but I would feel bad leaving out part of the principle. Mill argues that punishment should only be used if it would lead to better consequences than non-punishment aka punishment for punishment’s sake is not desirable. So it is okay that the individual is racist or sexist until they do something that causes harm. But I will not respect their belief. For me, respect primarily means “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of aperson, a personal quality or ability, or something consideredas a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I havegreat respect for her judgment”. Though I will “deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, orsomeone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment” I will not truly respect their belief.

2. Find some examples of beliefs (modern or throughout History) that you think are both misguided and dangerous.

I’m going to start with examples prevalent in America today; I think that many ideas (like those of jihadists) are too easy to think of. For me, it is much more difficult (and rewarding) to think about beliefs that I or people around me have.

1) Objectivism: (This is the basic assumption that in order to live a moral life, it is necessary for one to be concerned with his own interests. It states that a person should take actions that will benefit said person first and foremost. It is the antithesis of altruism.) This doesn’t sound so bad, but take a moment to imagine what the world would be like if everyone lived under objectivism.

2) Entitlement: I’ve noticed that some people around me( and including myself, at times) seem to feel that they are entitled to something. I think that this is a dangerous belief because it leads to complacency and a false sense of self worth. I don’t think that people deserve anything. Where we are born does not entitle us to special treatment; we are blessed to have what we do. This, for some people I know (like my father) links to objectivism: other people are not entitle to things, “no hand outs”. I think of it differently though: you are not entitled to what you have, you should try to be generous even if no one is really entitled to anything.

3) Just because life has no intrinsic value means it has no value at all: I did not know that I am an existentialist until a few months ago. Existentialists believe that life has no intrinsic value (a list of Existentialist can be found here; the most notable are Søren Kierkegaard (who is currently my favorite philosopher)and Friedrich Nietzsche). Intrinsic is the key word there; no intrinsic value does not mean no value at all.  It is possible to believe that there is no intrinsic value while still believe it has value (it is like believing that pieces of paper have no worth until we give these papers worth by calling it “money”) . There is me, for example. I am a Christian, and a common misconception about existentialism is that it is anti-Christian. As a Christian I believe that life has value and meaning and purpose;  I believe that that purpose is from God. Without God, life would have no value therefore life has no intrinsic value…but it still in the end, does have value.  So I’m a Christian Existentialist. But the reason that existentialism has gotten a bad rap over the years is that many people don’t understand the  intrinsic part. They take the philosophy as life is pointless and have become depressed from a lack of purpose or reckless with nihilism which creates a negative and unproductive society.

The Harm Principle and Existentialism

By spockinthehood

What He Believes

If you wish, read the essay here:

The essayist believes that tomorrow will be a better day. The evidence he finds for his belief is history: he looks through his old family photos, from the a picture of his immigrant ancestors at Ellis Island to today.  He sees how, with each generation, his family’s situation has improved. Then he talks about the bright future: curing AIDs and cancer, peace in the Middle East and food in Africa. To personalize it, they opened with a family experience. The most interesting part was the very beginning for me, when the essayists says “Instead, he [the essayist’s father] was upset about the world his generation is turning over to mine, a world he fears has a dark and difficult future – if it has a future at all. He sounded like this:“There will be a pandemic that kills millions, a devastating energy crisis, a horrible worldwide depression and a nuclear explosion set off in anger.” I am fascinated by the passage of time, so it made me wonder where I will be when I’m my father’s age.  It was this challenging of his belief that the essayist opens his essay with, which was an interesting structural choice.

By spockinthehood