The full title of this mini-essay is ‘Open Ways of Thinking and Closed Systems of Behaviour: Moral Libertarianism and Essentialism’.
I am sure everyone can appreciate that some ways of thinking are open (to context and to change) and some are closed and rigid, not allowing for inputs. I would say that the latter are not ‘ways of thinking’ but ‘systems of behaviour’, since they actually preclude analytical thought. Systems are always bad, by definition; context is eschewed.
For those that don’t understand the long terms in the full title, moral libertarianism is the worldview that individuals possess free will and that the choices they make are the most important factor in determining what happens in their life, and the lives of others. It follows from this fact that they are responsible, at least in part, for the results of their actions. We can, from now on, call this, the open view.
Essentialism by contrast is the idea that there are essences inside of people that are the final word on how they behave. They are who they are, and will act the same regardless of their environment. Classic essentialist statements are “Jews are greedy and evil”, “gypsies have theft in their blood”, and “human nature makes people compete to survive”.
To illustrate why I think moral libertarianism is the only sensible approach to ethics in general, and why essentialism is so horribly wrong, I have today chosen literally the first three examples that came to my head. Continue reading