Why I am anti-anti-concept and you should be too
May 15, 2014 § 68 Comments
The concept of an “anti-concept” has come up in any number of discussions over the years (e.g. see here), most famously when a commenter at Mark Shea’s claimed that torture isn’t really a thing: it is just a meaningless anti-concept used to express the disapproval of the speaker.
The latest real thing to be cast as an anti-concept is racism: the assertion is that racism isn’t really anything at all, it is just an epithet expressing the disapproval of the person uttering it. This is supported by an appeal to etymology, as if we are supposed to accept the nominalist presupposition that the essence of something is brought into being by the coining of a term.
The basic idea seems to be that in order to defeat liberalism we have to become even more postmodern ourselves. Liberalism is good at telling lies and spreading propaganda, so we need to learn how to play the same language games that modernity plays in order to “win”.
But of course racism really is (and quite manifestly) a thing. If it weren’t a thing then propagandists wouldn’t have any reason to anchor their propaganda to it. Furthermore, anyone who cannot see racism in (say) a group of black thugs beating a white man to death while shouting “cracker” at him, or in a group of white slavers burning an “uppity nigger” alive, is a moral imbecile utterly incapable of even having a discussion about reality.
So the main reason to be anti-anti-concept is because the proposal that torture, racism, misogyny, and even homophobia are anti-concepts is false. Even a term like homophobia, which is used almost exclusively as propaganda – that is, as a building block for telling lies – refers to a real thing with an essence.
So my advice is to stop layering more bricks on the Tower of Babel in the vain hope of “winning”.