The unprincipled exception: a key to understanding liberalism

While there is no single article that brings together all aspects of this analytical key to the functioning of liberalism, “The unprincipled exception defined,” posted in June 2006, offers a concise explanation and is the best place to start. In that entry I write.

The unprincipled exception is a non-liberal value or assertion, not explicitly identified as non-liberal, that liberals use to escape the suicidal consequences of their own liberalism without questioning liberalism itself.

Alternatively, the unprincipled exception is a non-liberal value or assertion, not explicitly identified as non-liberal, that conservatives use to slow the advance of liberalism or to challenge some aspect of liberalism without challenging liberalism itself.

Also, “Lincoln’s unprincipled exception to racial equality” and the subsequent thread may offer the fullest discussion on the subject that we’ve had. This comment lists several key aspects of liberalism and conservatism that are illuminated by the idea of the Unprincipled Exception.

Other recommended articles are “Einstein—the man of unprincipled exceptions,” “Common sense—the only permitted non-liberal concept,” and “Anti-Lookism is not Extreme,” the first VFR piece in which I referred to the idea of the unprincipled exception. The discussion following the latter article contains a clear description of nominalism, showing how it is the basis of both liberalism and the unprincipled exception.

Also, here’s a comment on equality, managerialism and relativism showing how leadership itself is an unprincipled exception to the reign of managerialism.

This article shows how waging a war in America’s national defense is John Kerry’s unprincipled exception to his usual internationalism and anti-Americanism.

This article shows the unprincipled exception at work in President Jefferson’s Embargo Act.

This comment explains how, in the absence of massive inconsistencies, i.e., unprincipled exceptions, the liberal belief in “change” leads to nihilism.

This article, “Neoconservative realizes ‘moderate’ Islam is a fiction,” shows how, just as moderate liberalism is an unprincipled exception to true liberalism, “moderate” Islam is an unprincipled exception to true Islam. Also, this article talks about the danger that Moslem immigration could be treated as an unprincipled exception to the immigration problem, allowing liberals to restrict Moslem immigration while validating all other types of immigration. And this article argues that restriction of Moslems must be based on a principled grasp of the danger they pose, not on mere emotional reaction to some particularly horrible crime.

xx And here’s an article on the unprincipled exception avant la lettre, in which I pointed out how liberals exempt themselves from their own rules when they feel it is necessary for their own safety (e.g. liberal opponents of gun rights owning their own guns), but that they never draw any larger conclusions from this.

And here, posted a day earlier, is the question that first led to the idea of the unprincipled exception: given the fact that liberalism contradicts reality and is not viable, how does it go on functioning?

This article discusses how mid-twentieth century attitudes against homosexuality were an unprincipled exception to liberalism.

In this entry, I discuss how in a culminating scene in Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand “reveals the unprincipled exception as the secret key to the functioning and survival of liberal society, and thus as the point of its ultimate vulnerability.” I also quote a scene from the novel where a minor character movingly struggles to find principle in a liberal world that denies principle.

Further mentions of the UE will be listed below:

- The normal male response to being accused of being unmasculine as an unprincipled exception.

- So long as the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate (which calls Muslims “fellow adorers of the one God”) remains authoritative, any papal criticism of Islam will only be an unprincipled exception, meaning a non-liberal attitude that is not backed up by a non-liberal principle, and therefore is inevitably rolled over by liberal principle. Thus Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict, said in 2004 that Turkey’s admission into the EU would be a grave error, because Europe is Christian and Turkey is not. But that was just a vestigial, non-liberal attitude to which Ratzinger was giving voice. The only authoritative principle for him was that Muslims believe in the same God as Catholics, which inevitably led him to reverse himself and support the admission of Turkey into the EU.

- Authorities in an Oregon county only began reporting illegal aliens to federal authorities after a 15 year old girl had been murdered by a Mexican illegal alien whom the authorities had previously released after a drunk driving arrest. “They didn’t have it in them to institute such a policy earlier, because, as liberals living in liberal society, they had no principled basis for enforcing the immigration laws against illegal aliens. Only on the spur of a horrible event and the unthinking, instinctive compulsion not to let it happen again did they start enforcing the law.”

- Dennis Prager’s wild unprincipled exception. Prager wants America to be a particularist, “Judeo-Christian” society. Yet his liberal principles of equality and non-discrimination lead him to insist on the mass immigration of Muslims, whose religion commands them to crush beneath their feet biblical religion and the people who follow it, and thus to destroy the religious and moral particularity that Prager prizes. Since his liberal principles won’t help him against—indeed they have made possible—the threat to our culture embodied in [Keith] Ellison’s declared intention to take his oath of office on the Koran, Prager conjures up and announces from on high his unprincipled exception to liberalism, which states: “Thou shalt take thy oath of office on the Bible.”

- Israeli self-defense and the unprincipled exception: Israel will send its forces into Gaza only when Hamas rocket attacks against Israel become “too much,” or, as Tsipi Livni put it, “unbearable.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 02, 2004 12:32 AM | Send

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