I was talking recently with a young man and the conversation veered toward the subject of abortion. He told me that he was pro-choice. I was a little surprised, but not too much. As we talked it became apparent that he hadn’t given the subject much thought, but adopted “pro-choice” because that was the attitude acceptable in his circle of friends. In fact, some of his comments didn’t sound very pro-choice at all, but I don’t think he’s going to give up the label any time soon.
The thing that really surprised me was his total inability to discuss the subject in a rational way. He would make a comment without having any sense of the proposition underlying it – it simply “felt” right, and that was that.
For example, he mentioned the case of a woman having an abortion because the child would seriously undermine the quality of her life. I asked about the case of a woman killing her abusive husband or boyfriend because his behavior seriously undermined the quality of her life. His answers didn’t address the question, but slid obliquely from place to place. But here’s the real problem – he didn’t seem to be deliberately evading an answer, but simply had no idea that he was missing the point. The notion of taking a principle posited in one situation and testing it against another situation was just beyond his experience.
This young man is no dummy. He’s been through the school system, and holds a respectable undergraduate degree. I know a little of his home background, which didn’t give him a good start. But clearly his education hasn’t taught him to think either.
In his novel 1984, Orwell coined the term “doublethink”, but this isn’t doublethink, this isn’t even halfthink. But it’s happening all around us in this post-truth world. For example at the Yale Law School (see Breakpoint 04/23/19). It’s just scary when you come across a face-to-face example.