The Case Against Christopher Hedge’s | Student Submission

The following submission was for a weekly discussion post in an English class asking about what will be the impacts of climate change. Though the poster requested to remain anonymous, we can tell you that this was written at an institution in Georgia, United States in 2016.

Discussion Prompt:You might find yourself uncomfortable with the Hedge essay from this module’s reading. You might be uncomfortable with how he equates the ethical groundings of different religions; you might believe capitalism is the best economic system available; you might not believe in a transcendent being.

Nonetheless, we can respect Hedge’s efforts to find grounds for how we can live together ethically.

On your own, write an explanation of what you believe about why you are alive. What do you believe and what relations do your beliefs encourage you to have with others? What would your life look like—what sorts of relations would you build with others—if you were able at every moment to live by your values? What would you advocate, for whom and with whom?

Student submission below. 

So, about the Hedge essay. Philosopher Danniel Dennett once wrote “there is nothing I hate more than a bad argument for a position that I hold” and, for me, the Hedge essay was the mother load of bad arguments. If one wants to make moral and political progress through criticizing capitalism one is best suited trying to convince the reader that holds capitalism dear. The strident capitalism will cite capitalism not as a means for the wealth of themselves but they really believe that capitalism is always best for everyone. 

The way to combat these claims is not with anecdotal appeals to psychology and patronizing analogies to the ten commandments but pointing out specific contradictions in the practice. For instance, there are conservatives who support abortion just because of the dangers that might happen if abortion were outlawed, that created unregulated underground abortion practices by shady, unqualified doctors. The problem is that a primary tenant of conservatism is de-regulation (i.e.- free markets) therefore this stance on abortion highlights a deep flaw with conservatism, that having something legal (so that it can be regulated) could very well be better for the people than having it unregulated. Thus a contradiction in their moral stance. 

As far as the moral philosophy goes, Hedge not only assumes an objectivism approach to morality (very controversial) but then roots in the Ten Commandments (even more controversial), only to brush off criticisms of the ten commandments by saying “well all the different versions are mostly the same”…”we only use two commandments of the ten in our current moral code”—am I really to believe the problem with capitalism is that our moral law doesn’t forbid our citizens to caricature Jesus and God? Am I really to believe that if we just all agreed that we should not accept any other God’s, the issues of capitalism would become patently obvious? 

What’s most frustrating is that it feels Hedge is writing under the false pretense of unification behind a single moral code. A moral code which he never argues for, or explains in detail. A much more interesting approach might be by proposing a moral code like consequentialism, or deontology and then showing how this particular moral approach is in direct conflict with capitalism.

For myself, I can only say that I try to take on a moral approach to life that assumes that the most important thing is the collective well being of all of the human’s on earth. If I believe in anything, I would say I believe in evidence, logic, and the ability of rational discourse and honest conversation to better society. I just wish the Hedge article better reflected that.

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