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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Dogmatism and the election

<sn’t Obama’s being elected that I was unhappy with nor was it the man himself. It was what I perceived as the Carleton community’s explicit assumption that everyone on campus was a supporter of Obama.

I voted for Obama. I was convinced that not only did I disagree with McCain’s ideology, but that it could be empirically proven to be worse for America than Obama’s and I thought it the prerogative of any intelligent, educated person to vote for him. But amidst the swell of jubilation that erupted across campus after Obama’s victory was announced I realized something that made me very uneasy though I couldn’t quite place it. I felt uneasy because I had done something wrong. I failed to think for myself.

To assume that an intelligent, educated person couldn’t have any political preferences other than your own and is effectively to assume that your political preferences are intelligent and educated while all others are not. If, when evaluating the policies of the opposing party, we subconsciously or otherwise, are looking for these to be inferior, base, or unfounded we will inevitably find them to be so. If we refuse to take their opinions just as seriously as we take our own then there exists no choice, only the illusion of one. For a choice between a comprehensive set of beliefs and a farce is no choice at all. On the other hand, a choice between two comprehensive sets of belief is. For this reason we must never lose respect or an understanding for those of opposing viewpoints nor must we look upon our own choices as possessing a certain validity which those of others do not. Once we lose our ability to objectively evaluate the worth of opposing viewpoints we are no better than children who simply absorb the beliefs of those around them.

So it appears as if we are at an impasse. If the above leads us to the conclusion that dogmatism must be avoided at all costs then all we have done is traded one dogmatic belief for another; that dogmatism must be avoided is itself a dogmatic belief. However, just as a ship at sea without a compass is hopelessly lost, so too are we without some belief off of which to base our worldview and subsequently our conduct. I can’t help but feel as though, in a learning environment, the only appropriate belief about which to orient ourselves is the belief that we cannot regard any one belief as being above any other. Not only does this work towards ensuring objectivity in our analysis of beliefs other than our own, but, more importantly, it prevents us from placing ourselves, morally or otherwise, above people who understand the world differently than we do.

That being said I do not believe this to be a breakthrough of any kind. I feel as though Carleton has always strived to create an environment of both egalitarianism and open-mindedness. Yet I feel as though, in light of recent events, this may be a good time for the Carleton community to reflect upon the importance of intellectual diversity and the dangers of ideological prejudice.

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