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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Ignatieff is just as ideological as Harper

First of all allow me to come out and say that I am pro-choice. I am pro-choice for deeply theoretical and philosophical reasons. Through philosophy and discourse I have, over the years, developed a perspective and conceptualization of how to understand reality. This can also be called an ideology.

Every human being has some sort of ideological underpinnings to their view on life. It may not be very deep or very complicated but it is there. The person who decides to trust a stranger blindly is adhering to a certain philosophy of life; just as a person who distrusts a stranger is adhering to an opposing philosophy of life.

Anyone, especially someone has spent their life in academia, who claims that they are not ideological is either an idiot or intellectually dishonest. Either they are too stupid to understand their own limited perspective or they are purposely misleading people to win an argument.

Dr. Ignatieff gives a good example of what I am talking about on the issue of abortion. The leader of the Liberal Party has demanded that Prime Minister Harper not be "ideological" and allow funding to world health groups that perform or discuss abortions.

Now even Dr. Ignatieff admits that there is no indication that Mr. Harper plans on doing this, which makes it clear that this is nothing but idiotic political grand standing. PMO spokesperson Mr Sodous rightly discribes this as pathetic. But just for the sake of an intellectual exercise let's pretend that the government really did mean to do what the Liberals say.

“We don’t want us to go that way,” Mr. Ignatieff said. “We want to make sure that women have access to all the contraceptive methods available to control their fertility because we don’t want to have women dying because of botched procedures, we don’t want to have women dying in misery.”

This is not an objective statement of values (if such a thing even exists), it is a philosophical statement springing from an ideological position. There are several inherent assumptions made in these sentences. The most important of which is that a woman's control over her fertility is more important than the life of the fetus. Also there is an assumption that the fetus should not be treated as a full human. You can agree or disagree with this position but either position is undeniably ideological.

So why am I bothering to write this? Why do I care that the Liberal Party, and other political groups, throw the word ideological around like it is a pile ofmanure? Because:

a) The word ideology is not bad and should not be used in a bad way.

b) Those that use the term ideology in that fashion inherently assume that they are being objective. Those nasty conservatives (and libertarians) are ideological, while us Liberals are perfectly rational and objective. We know how the world really works and they are just fools. Again I say that someone who makes such a claim is either stupid or dishonest.

The reality is that no human being can be 100% objective. Even if we were able to gather all the facts that would allow us to be objective, our minds couldn't possibly contain that much data. We have to build sometheoretical way of understanding the world around us.

Dr. Ignatieff has spent his life in academics, he knows this, he couldn't possibly not know this. I'm only half a year through a Masters program and I've already had this truth drilled into me in several classes. So why is he trying to use the word ideology like a swear word?

Either stupid or dishonest, take your pick.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on February 3, 2010 | Permalink


Poor little Hugh. Allow me to educate you a bit.

Intelligent and thoughtful people will, over the course of time, think about various questions and concerns that face us. They will examine the ideas, evidence, and theories available to them and will seek out further ideas, evidence, and theories that will help them to understand the questions and the potential answers to them. In the course of time they will come to find some theories and ideas to be more compelling than others. They will construct systematic ways of looking at the world based on arguments that are as sound and as philosophically rigorous as they can construct. In so doing, they will have adopted an ideology. They will then apply that ideology in various circumstances in response to various issues, questions, or problems that might arise. But that is not what people mean when they talk about a person "being ideological".

You see, intelligent and thoughtful people will, over the course of time, continue to encounter new ideas, evidence, and theories and face new situations even after they have formed their ideology. Sometimes new information will challenge ones ideology and one will have to consider revising or even abandoning it. (Just think of how the same process happens with scientific theories.) New challenges can cause ideological change. The charge of "being ideological" is one that is made of the person who is inflexible about their ideology. This is the person who, once he has adopted an ideology refuses to (or is unable to) process new evidence or new challenges objectively. He is the person who not only believes the ideology he has already adopted, but he fetishizes is to the point where saving the belief in the ideology is more important than ensuring that it really does fit with all the available evidence. So while intelligent and thoughtful people will develop an ideology, it does not follow that they will "be ideological". To have an ideology is a good thing, but to "be ideological" is a bad thing, and the accusation that one is "being ideological" is necessarily negative.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2010-02-03 7:05:16 AM


You're right that many people use the term "ideological" that way. Many others, however, simply use it to tar those they disagree with (whether the opponent fits the description or not is irrelevant to them). I personally find this term is slowly becoming quite meaningless. I think this is what Hugh is referring to.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-02-03 7:14:13 AM

See the victims of "choice" to kill at:

Posted by: Stephen J. Gray | 2010-02-03 9:07:53 AM


I agree and disagree with you :) Here's what I agree with: "Many others, however, simply use it to tar those they disagree with (whether the opponent fits the description or not is irrelevant to them)." But it is worth noting that these people don't actually have a different definition of "being ideological" from the way I described. They are just lying. Just as people who accuse political opponents of of being in the pockets of special interests mean the same thing by that description whether they are saying it because they think it is true or saying it because it is a convenient brush to tar those they disagree with.

But I disagree with you on your assessment of Hugh. He objects to the very idea of "being ideological" being used as a term of derision. He thinks it is a good thing to "be ideological". So his complaint is that when people use the term as an insult they are wrong because while it's true, it's also a good thing to be, not that it's untrue and a bad thing to be.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2010-02-03 9:38:02 AM

Fact Check,

My complaint is that people shouldn't be using the term "to be ideological" in the way you just described. There are plenty of other terms that are much better, such as rigid thinking or closed minded.

I don't think that my point was unclear and obviously Charles at least understood it. So please keep you condescending (and ultimately obtuse) comments to yourself.

Posted by: Hugh MacIntyre | 2010-02-03 10:56:44 AM


The first part of what I said is really all that matters to me in this case.

For the second part, point taken, you could see it that way. His post isn't really clear and I'm not interested enough in his views on the matter to pursue it any further ;)

Posted by: Charles | 2010-02-03 11:11:35 AM

Nah, being ideological implies that Iggy has an idea. He clearly has nothing to offer but fealty to the rich people of Toronto and an alliance with a virtually identical party in the NDP. If they were any closer, it would be called plagiarism.

Mr. Harper, on the other hand, has demonstrated consistently good ideas and the drive to implement them. he rejected Kyoto, the best and yet simplest idea anyone ever had. That alone makes him awesome.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2010-02-03 11:12:44 AM

He rejected Kyoto, but favors cap and trade. Whats the difference? A scam is a scam.

Posted by: Steve Bottrell | 2010-02-03 1:29:31 PM

Charles I don't think that my post is unclear (obviously I wouldn't). It is only unclear if you accept the way that FC is characterising it. The point is that the word ideological should not be used to mean close minded. What many people call "being ideological" is often merely being intellectually consistant and disagreeing with someone's opinion.

Posted by: Hugh MacIntyre | 2010-02-03 2:02:10 PM

I say he is dishonest. He doesn't care about the definition of the word or how right Hugh is, only that he gets votes. Painting Harper as ideological is being done because he hopes to characterize him prior to the next election as an ideological zealot. It may work. But it doesn't matter if he is also ideological. Votes are all that matters. That's just the way the system works.

Posted by: TM | 2010-02-03 7:20:16 PM

Ideologically, I believe Fact Check is full of it. But I'll do more research to see if I should change my mind.

Posted by: Agha Ali Arkhan | 2010-02-03 7:36:56 PM

If one views an issue through ideological glasses, it is a view that is restricted to a particular time. It doesn't mean that a more persuasive argument will fail to impress. rigidity is usually based on an ability to evade thought. Unfortunately the Canadian propensity to "go along to get along" will, in the long run, not serve us.

Posted by: DML | 2010-02-03 10:49:03 PM

Fact Check is being ideological, Igg-iot is being an idealog. Except when he isn't. Watch how long it takes for him to take an opposite position.

Posted by: Sylvanguy | 2010-02-04 12:53:26 PM

Either stupid or dishonest, take your pick.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on February 3, 2010 | Permalink

Not stupid or any more dishonest than any politician. Just fishing for any opening that might give him a edge. He knows that the canadian majority is pro choice and also knows Harper is not. Perhaps Harper will put his foot in his mouth , say something he will regret, something to exploit.
All part of the game.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-02-06 9:12:11 PM

In our anti-intellectual dumbocracy, the greatest ideological triumph is to successfully charge a political opponent with having, and especially, acting on, an ideology, whilst simultaneously convincing the lumpen and media (or do I repeat myself?) that you, yourself do not.

Posted by: JC | 2010-02-07 3:46:04 PM

Sorry Peter but there is no evidence that the majority of Canadians are pro abortion, which is what so called "pro-choice" really is, and the same applies to state funded abortions at any time and for any reason. That politicians are afraid to broach the subject due to the hysteria of the Left which controls the MSM is true, just like they were afraid to deal with SSM, the death penalty and many other things. Yet there has never been any evidence confirming that the majority of Canadians were in favour of SSM and against the death penalty. This is exactly why politicians are terrified of allowing the people to voice their views through a referendum on any of these topics.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-02-07 7:09:48 PM

Posted by:Alain|2010-02-07 7:09:48 PM

According to a USA Today, CNN Gallup Poll in May, 1999 - 16% of Americans believe abortion should be legal for any reason at any time during pregnancy and 55% of American believe abortion should be legal only to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.

According to a Gallup Poll in January, 2001 - People who considered themselves to be pro-life rose from 33% to 43% in the past 5 years, and people who considered themselves to be pro-choice declined from 56% to 48%

It would be interesting to see what a referendum would produce , but I suspect you are correct and politicians see it as one of the most divisive issues out there. None of them want to go there.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-02-08 7:32:43 PM

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