By Graham Floyd
In the iconic movie A Few Good Men, Col. Nathan Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) shouts “You can’t handle the truth!” at Lt. Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise) during cross-examination. This now famous line implies that the truth is something that Kaffee is not really interested in but instead is trying to undermine. In my previous article, I demonstrated how the underlying concepts of the social justice movement are self-defeating. By using Critical Theory, the social justice movement undermines its own claims by not only appealing to what it condemns but also doing what it condemns. This movement condemns oppression from white, western, heterosexual, cisgender, masculinity; yet, the social justice movement is rooted in the writings and mindset of white, western, heterosexual, cisgender males. Further, this movement seeks to use Critical Theory to oppress other groups while condemning oppression in general. This incoherence becomes clearer when one realizes that the social justice movement is not interested in seeking truth. It is interested in power.
Let me begin by recapping the ideology of the social justice movement and Critical Theory. The most prominent definition of social justice is the egalitarian definition which embraces the equal rights of people such that they must have access to the opportunities to get what they need or want. Society is steeped in oppression that often goes unnoticed which is labeled “privilege,” and the social justice movement is tasked with unmasking and eliminating this oppression. The social justice movement relies upon Critical Theory which seeks to emancipate humanity from social slavery so that people can fulfill all their needs and desires. Oppression occurs through the domination of particular ideologies, groups, or powers that control society. These things must be eliminated and freedom for individuals, particularly minorities, increased. A valid critical theory must explain what is wrong in society, identify who can change society, and provide the means and principles to enforce that change.
Notice that an important word is missing from the social justice ideology. That word is “truth.” At no point does the social justice movement concern itself with the issue of truth. All that matters is that some group does not get what they want. If some group does not get what it wants, then that group must be “oppressed.” If they are oppressed, then steps must be taken to end the oppression. As a result, it is possible that some truths might be oppressive to some group; therefore, those truths must be discarded. What matters is that one has the power to enforce their own beliefs and desires rather than having to submit to some objective truth.
Philosopher William Lane Craig has recently pointed out the social justice movement’s non-commitment to truth. In discussing an article by Neil Shenvi, Craig and his interviewer Kevin Harris note that Critical Theory emphasizes narrative (i.e. experience) over argument. Craig states: “That was very interesting to me as a philosopher that these advocates of Critical Theory do not really argue for the truth of their positions. They just share their experiences as oppressed minorities and identify themselves with these groups, and these shared experiences are used to justify these radical theses.”
When asked to explain why he finds this position so troubling, Craig states: “It doesn’t get at truth. You need to have good arguments if you’re going to claim your positions are true, and just sharing your experiences doesn’t justify the truth of some of these theses.”[6) By not being concerned with truth, logical coherence goes out the window. Craig further notes that what the social justice movement is actually concerned with is not truth but the “power dynamics of oppressors and the oppressed.”
What Craig sees is that the social justice movement, with its reliance on Critical Theory, is only concerned with obtaining power, not with establishing truth. In fact, the social justice movement will tear down truth if it prevents the obtaining of power by some group. An example of this fact is how the social justice movement repudiates biological science in order to support homosexuality and transgenderism. It does not matter that biology refutes their claim that sex is not biologically fixed at conception because truth is irrelevant. Obtaining power is all that matters in order to get what one wants. This viewpoint is also seen in the abortion debate. The biology of an embryo or a fetus is irrelevant, nor does the divine establishment of personhood at conception matter. It only matters that women have power over the reproduction process to get what they want.
It should be clear now why the social justice movement suffers from logical incoherence. Truth is irrelevant. When truth does not matter, one may say or do anything no matter how incoherent. Power is all that matters for the social justice movement, which should concern us all the more. As Craig says, “Once you start this, it’s all ‘might makes right.’ It’s all ‘whoever has the biggest club’; whoever can get the advantage.” Shenvi, Craig, and Harris end up noting that the fixation on power leads us down dangerous pathways. Parents have power over children. Governments have power over criminals and the mentally ill. God has power over all things. Are we to condemn parents, governments, and God as “oppressors” to be torn down? Are we to give power to children, criminals, the mentally ill, and the morally malevolent to do whatever they want because they are a minority being “oppressed”?
The answer is a clear “No!” There is an objective truth about reality and how it operates to which we ought to submit whether we like it or not. We cannot always get our way because “our way” is sometimes wrong. If a person’s position is to be accepted, then it must accord with truth, not merely desire. Simply claiming “oppression” is not sufficient for justification. Certain people and positions justly deserve “oppression” because they are wrong or destructive. Children ought to obey their parents; the mentally ill must be contained; criminals must be punished for or dissuaded from their evil actions; God must be worshipped. By focusing only on power, it looks as though the social justice movement can’t handle the truth.
See “The Incoherence of the Social Justice Movement.” https://epecarticles.com/2018/09/17/the-incoherence-of-the-social-justice-movement/; accessed October 9, 2018.
Janet Flynn and Maxine Johnson, “What is Social Justice?” OUP Blog, March 25, 2017. https://blog.oup.com/2017/03/what-is-social-justice/; accessed September 6, 2018.
James Bohman, “Critical Theory,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, March 8, 2005. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/critical-theory/; accessed September 6, 2018.
See Neil Shenvi, “A Long Review of Race, Class, and Gender.” https://shenviapologetics.wordpress.com/a-long-review-of-race-class-and-gender-part-1/; accessed October 9, 2018.
“The Dangers of Critical Theory.” https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/the-dangers-of-critical-theory/; accessed October 9, 2018. This conversation can also be found at https://sovereignnations.com/2018/06/11/dangers-critical-theory/; accessed October 9, 2018.