Thursday, October 15, 2009
A Theory of Prejudice: What is it about preferential thinking that makes people categorize others into social groups? The answer may reside with the difference(s) between familiarity and strangeness. Of course, there is the old cliché that familiarity breeds contempt; but on a more instinctive basis, strangeness also spawns antagonism. It appears the two basic emotions that stem from familiarity and strangeness are hatred and anger (as opposed to kindness and curiosity). According to American psychologist, Gordon Allport, "anger is a transitory emotional state" while "hatred is more deep-rooted" with an element of permanence. Building on this distinction, Aristotle alluded to the idea that "anger is customarily felt toward individuals only, whereas hatred may be felt toward whole classes of people." Such a claim is particularly evident in the experiences of young children. The "doll experiments" of Kenneth and Mamie Clark, which served as evidence in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, helped to explain the ingrained nature of racial prejudice in school children. For both black and white students, the white dolls consistently proved more appealing. With a proper (integrated) education, however, these kinds of preferential thoughts can be mitigated over time.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Secularizing the Mosaic Covenant: The Mosaic Covenant symbolizes a specific contractual agreement between God and His chosen people, namely the Israelites. God put forth his Ten Commandments to guide the Israelites in their collective quest for communal harmony. Yet with the birth of Christ, which Kierkegaard refers to as "The Instant," a New Covenant permeated the Judeo-Christian tradition. By no means did this New Covenant invalidate the Mosaic One. It was still immoral (against God's will) to murder and steal and commit adultery. But the Old-Testament consequences behind such actions became somewhat muddled, as the New Covenant offered salvation to even those who broke the Mosaic Law. And it was precisely this kind of redemptive Grace that weaved its way into the founding documents of republican societies throughout the Western world. A social contract, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau once wrote, forms when "each of us places his person and authority under the supreme direction of the general will, and the group receives each individual as an indivisible part of the whole." This statement speaks to the fundamental principles of Christianity whereby man holds Faith in Christ to fashion wholesome communities rooted in self-evident truths like liberty and equality. Rousseau merely uses secular language like "the general will" to avoid having his argument corrupted by the controversial nature of the Catholic Church in eighteenth-century France.