Nigel Warburton is a ‘renowned philosopher’ and he’s not happy. Well, I suppose that's the way philosophers are meant to be. Writing in the July edition of Prospect, he bemoans the election of Nick Griffin of the BNP. His main cause for concern? ‘while it’s tempting to dismiss BNP voters as stupid Griffin is in fact an intelligent Cambridge graduate’.
Well fancy that!
Warming to his topic he then looks back at major Enlightenment figures and finds, to his horror, that they were racists!
Nurse – the screens!!
He quotes David Hume, arguably the daddy of all Enlightenment figures 'I’m apt to suspect the negroes to be naturally inferior to whites’.
Then it appears that Kant at one point declaimed that negroes talk so much that ‘they must be driven apart by thrashing’. But the ultimate indignity comes from the patron saint of liberalism, John Stuart Mill. Johhny apparently referred to ‘those backward states of society in which the race itself may be considered as in its immature stage’
O deary deary me! What’s a good philosopher to do?
Nigel sadly shakes his elegantly coiffed head at all of this. But the interesting point from my perspective is that, as a philosopher, he falls at the very first fence. By this I mean he fails to subject the foundation of his criticism (that all races are equal) to even a cursory validation. He just accepts it as true, and based on this unsupported assumption, undertakes his critique.
A true philosophical approach would subject all assumptions to searching questioning and validation before deploying them in an argument. And of course we know that the scientific evidence essentially supports what these ‘mistaken’ Enlightenment philosophers were saying. But then of course, these old-style philosophers didn’t have PC Stalinist Thought Police to contend with.