Jun 4, 2010

About my Intentions as a Potential "Scholar": the Ethical Component in “Science”

What the people of Taiwan do in their communal construction and discussion of identity, I do according to my own calling and self-understanding as a young “scholar” doing research: support for/legitimation of their constructive efforts via scientific backing (delivering “facts”). Give them a voice in “rational” “objective” scientific discourse which makes for the internationally recognised forum/parliament of debating legitimate decision-making based selectively on terms of orthodoxy and heterodoxy (“rational” vs. “irratonal”), reflecting well-hidden (or taken for granted) power structures which exercise scientific discourse to a point where certain assumptions become consent. Thus, science ultimately serves as legitimising agency and advisory committee to the political executive. Science is neither innocent nor independent. Everyone choses which side they are on. Ideally, I view it as an imperative for any influential intellectual/scholar to not act on their own behalf or blindly bear existing structures of power, but to illuminate and side with the weak, the oppressed, the unheard, to – after objective-as-possible assessment of their situation and overall environment –work towards amelioration of society according to our conscience and scientific ideals of objectivity and impartiality. I believe we should do so along our adopted standards many of which are “Western” in nature (democracy, human rights) but which should nevertheless not be withheld from anybody outside their reach who choses to embrace them. I call for political activity by intellectuals! It is us who need to be outspoken and deliver factual and reasonable arguments in public debate, but we should not be confined by the class many of us feel part of. Instead, we need to include and enhance those voices which are not heard through their own efforts. We need to remember society of the relativity of many of its ideas and convictions, but on stable ground. For albeit constructed or imagined, we chose certain convictions, one way or the other. We would even chose to “transcend” (or deconstruct, or destroy) any idea available. Thus, we need to stay alert about the consequences of our thinking. So my conviction is we shall always think through alternative views, keep in mind our own relativity, but firmly chose our grounding, for we cannot stand without firm ground. Paradoxically, although I am convinced that my belief is relative at best, I am still able to believe. I believe what I believe in, and since I know this is me only and totally irrelevant (or relative) to the bigger picture, of course I must accept what others believe in. But I accept it as equally relative, so that still leaves me a chance to try and convince them of what I believe in. However, I can do so only through word and persuasion, by means legitimable in light of my accepting their opinion.

Talking about cultural differences, there is no “universal nature” in “human rights”, but we who enjoy their liberties and freedom are to opt for supporting those who freely chose to lead lives along similar lines, even if that means opposing reigning power in a foreign context. We have to do so to ensure the longevity of these our very ideals against an all-encompassing relativism, and we can do so only by acknowledging the historically constructed nature and not given “nature” of liberal democracy, offering it to everybody as one political philosophy among many – the superiority of which we believe in – and support those who decide for themselves to follow it. Since it is a singular political doctrine with absolute claim we propagate, does that justify military operations to safeguard its proliferation and endurance in other countries? Can we morally justify the suffering and even killing of innocent people with the outlook of achieving a better or more just society for them, a view not necessarily shared by the ones so “rescued”? In any case, understanding Western liberal democracy and human rights as one political doctrine competing for power with other, structurally similar doctrines, at least allows for the implementation of military might for a better end – social peace, multiculturalism. In contrast, perceiving them as naturally (or genetically) endowed with the human condition would inextricably lead to a moral dilemma of undermining the end – the state so to be achieved – with the means employed to reach it, and so making it virtually impossible to convince people to convert to the alleged higher moral state innate to liberal values.