As we saw, Nisbet quotes Paul Kurtz on the need to be for things as well as against things. ‘It is what you are for that counts, not what you are against!’ I agree with that – and I’ll tell you some of the things I’m for.
I’m for free inquiry – open, fearless, unashamed, uninhibited inquiry. That means inquiry that is not expected to be deferential to majority opinion or belief; inquiry that follows the evidence wherever it goes without worrying about what the neighbours or bosses or ‘moderate believers’ will think.
I’m for telling the truth, on the whole, especially in public discourse. (That means no, I’m not for telling people they’re ugly or boring or fat or old, even if they are. I’m not for telling cruel personal truth, but that’s a different subject, and not relevant here.) I’m for telling the truth more than I’m for manipulating or wheedling. I realize – and realize more since reading The Political Brain – that that doesn’t always work in politics, but that’s one reason I wouldn’t want to go into politics: because I am for telling the truth more than I am for manipulating or wheedling.
I’m for progress, and change, and reform, including in thinking. I think all of those are impeded by the idea that the majority must not be ‘offended’ and that therefore certain ideas are taboo or sacrosanct.
I’m for thinking, and for universal freedom to think – freely, fearlessly, without inhibition.
I’m for knowledge, and learning, and evidence, all of which require free inquiry in order to flourish.
I’m for treating people as sensible grownups who can bear to have their ideas challenged without going into meltdown. That means I’m against treating people as fragile idiots who have to be protected from disagreement.
I’m for honesty in public discourse, which entails making reasonable efforts to address questions and objections rather than ignoring them in favour of repeating the original (questioned) claims.
See how affirmative I can be?