Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Myth of Unconditioned Rationality: "Wise Latino" Errors

Republicans are trying to make political capital out of Sotomayor's unfortunate "wise Latino" remark. They are creating or implying or giving aid and comfort to the fallacious notion of a pure universal rationality that is uninfluenced by the specifics of individual life history and background. The unconditioned mind so envisioned functions like a computer programmed with sophisticated software that enables the brain to apply strict rules to facts in light of the text of the Constitution and its court-sanctioned interpretation over the years. Thus unbiased conclusions that yield original intent or the real meaning of the historic document are enabled. The underlying assumption appears to be that this capacity is uniquely and superbly present in white Republican males.

The notion of an unconditioned judicial rationality will not bear up under even cursory scrutiny. The perpetrators of this politically-convenient myth know or should know better when not politically motivated to make grandstanding points for their relevant constituencies back home.

The fact is that our mental framework is shaped by numerous factors beginning with genetic endowment, including gender, and continuing with historically contingent specifics of race, class, religion, region, time, place, and culture, plus the details of family and individual life history and experience as interpreted by our available and appropriated conceptual categories, knowledge, moral norms passions, commitments, aims, and--yes-empathy.

To state or imply or assume otherwise is to embrace a notion of ahistorical reason so fatuous and indefensible that only those can deny it who are so invincibly ignorant and blind to what most people instinctively know when it is not convenient to avoid. Can anyone with minimal intelligence and discernment be that impervious to plain truth? Nah!

No comments: