It seems there is a present proclivity to characterize many prevalent attitudes as some aspect of Phobia, just two being Islamophobia and Homophobia. Phobia of course is defined as “an extreme or irrational fear or aversion”, but it seems, in these contexts, the meaning intended by the speaker has, frequently if not generally, metamorphosized into a category of Hate.
Phobia of course is not an attribute that is to be embraced or celebrated. (Neither though is the tendency to employ it — similar to the inclination to apply the innately-innocent phrases of “common sense” and “right (or wrong) side of history” as pejoratives — in an effort to castigate or marginalize the objects thereof.) Still, an exhibition of Hate is an attribute or attitude far more malignant and intolerable.
Of what, though, does Hate consist? And how does one identify it and isolate it from attitudes that are permissible? For it without doubt would be pernicious to label the articulation of an opinion formulated within the context of a belief system that distinguishes certain behavior or attributes as good versus bad (or evil) or commendatory versus intolerable — or even as acceptable versus unacceptable — as an expression of Hate. How then do we segregate attitudes that are beyond the pale from beliefs and principles that, though rejected or refuted by certain people, are intellectually tenable?
Perhaps the initial avenue of analysis would be to focus upon certain criteria that are capable of categorization. Pursuing such an approach, we than can assert that certain expressions clearly are indisputably indicative of an attitude of Hate. These include:
- explicitly characterizing an opinion as hatred toward an identified group of shared characteristics,
- acts of violence, against designated individuals or groups,
- offensive expressions with the actual intent to humiliate or injure an identified individual or group,
- consistently intemperate, vituperative characterizations of an identified group of shared characteristics when unaccompanied by coherent reasons that are sufficiently developed and corroborated,
- visceral reaction initiated by patent characteristics or without articulable reasons, and
- refusal to moderate an expressed hostile attitude toward an identified group of shared characteristics despite the proffered opportunity to evaluate context or appreciate nuances after presentation of and utilizing conflicting data or argument, when provided a sufficient opportunity to evaluate the presented data or argument.
Other actions would seem to be excludable from opprobrium, such as:
- expression of acknowledged hostility toward persons, identified or unidentified, exhibiting and manifesting generally-acknowledged malum in se conduct or opinion, and
- expressions that might have a tendency to offend but which are directed toward particular behavior or characteristics rather than a person performing or displaying them,
- expression of an articulated opinion, consisting of coherent reasons sufficiently developed and supported,
- explicitly describing an opinion as hatred toward a particular concept or principle, and
- revulsion toward conduct that violates historically-established norms of civilized behavior.
And yet other actions may be more problematic of categorization, such as:
- assertion of a general opinion or concept encompassing an identifiable class of persons which characterizes them as morally or socially deficient, and
- an unequivocal intemperate, vituperative antagonism directed toward identified individuals,
- expressions that might have a tendency to offend but which are directed toward particular behavior or characteristics rather than a person performing or displaying them when combined with aggravating or egregious factors,
- antagonism based upon opposition to a practice or behavior rather than an expression of advocacy for a differing practice or behavior.
It would seem the third (3rd) category is the one upon which we should focus, in analyzing the salient factors that might better allow us to identify what is Hate and what is not. For, if we can determine what factors there differentiate it from the first (1st) category, then this ought to enable us to better isolate the controlling factors.
Our first observation, it would seem, ought to be that hate is not per se sanctionable. For Scripture itself recognizes that it is, on occasion at least, justified, e.g. Ps. 97:10; Ps. 139:21-22. The Hate with which we are concerned is that which is censurable and sanctionable.
Unfettered antagonism toward specific individuals often can be justified and properly escape censure. For Evil does exist and certain individuals can congenitally project (or possibly even be possessed by) it. Yet, as Edward Wallis Hoch wrote:
“There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us.”
(Still, a caveat remains due, as certain persons can by their overt actions project themselves into the public consciousness, or inflict tangible ill towards others — and thus justify a reciprocal expression of censure.)
What then is censurable and sanctionable is an antagonism that is intentionally blind to any redeeming virtues and qualities of a particular person.
Unfettered antagonism towards an identifiable class of persons, however, usually escapes justification by the foregoing rationale. For, unless the class is exceptionally narrow, there are few vices and negative qualities uniform to each member of it; equivalently, even if there were some reprehensible characteristics exhibited by a certain portion of the class, it would be probable that a possible equivalent portion would exhibit laudatory characteristics. Again, then, the dereliction would consist in the intentional ignoring and disregarding of palpable exculpatory circumstances and conditions that would, as a matter of usual linear analysis, necessitate, or at least suggest, a reevaluation of one s assessment of the affected persons.
One primary indicator then of censurable Hate is the conscious and intentional obliviousness to factors that are inconsistent with and rather would negate the rationalization supporting the antagonism. Further, in assessing whether the conscious and intentional element is present, we might tender as an axiom that absolute certitude is equivalent to intent.
Now, however, we should progress to the question whether fervent advocacy of an opinion or position is equivalent to this censurable absolute certitude. To answer this we have to examine the opinion or position in depth.
But this examination needs be made not on the merits but on whether the argument in support of it is an elaborated argument. And we are compelled to conclude that an argument qualifies as such when it exhibits deductive reasoning, utilizing premises that are objectively coherent and consistent, founded upon sufficient evidentiary justification; and sufficient evidentiary justification can be deemed to be present when it is acknowledged to be not a fringe assessment but rather within the range of common recognition. Concurrence in the merits is irrelevant since many disputed premises and much contradictory evidence are common; what is relevant is whether the person espouses an opinion that in good conscience can be confidently maintained — regardless of whether it is “generally-accepted” (since, both, this is a quantitative rather than qualitative measure, and as measure of the quantity can generally be subject to dispute).
Even then it is possible that an elaborated argument might wander into the territory of censurable absolute certitude in the event of persistence in an expressed opinion after the presentation of controlling conflicting data or argument. Nevertheless, since what is “controlling” frequently can be open to dispute and as all are afflicted with an inherent bias against conflicting opinions, the presumption should remain in favor of evaluating an elaborated argument as being made in good faith.
We might conclude then that the primary criterion is how obdurate is the expressed opinion as opposed to one which at least tentatively reserves judgment.
If so, then perhaps the observer who assumes the right to characterize a particular action or opinion as hateful is likewise obliged to reserve judgment until there has been an opportunity to explore the rationale thereof.
WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
14 Sep 2016