Thomas Hitzlsperger and the Humanist Project

Continuing the theme of my previous post referencing Bob Black’s attack on Humanism and in light of the news that retired German international soccer player Thomas Hitzlsperger has ‘come out’, I found a statement by him in relation to this to be very interesting and worthy of investigation.

In an article published in The Daily Telegraph on Thursday 9th January, Hitzlsperger is quoted as stating the following:

“Every human being should be able to live without fear of discrimination due to his or her background, skin colour, sexual orientation or religion. I do not see this as a political statement, but as a self-evident fact.”

This statement is extremely interesting as it says something fundamental about the emancipatory project of humanism and the insurmountable contradictions within it which derive from its universalism.

Ignoring the obvious metaphysically relative and incorrect appeal to ‘human beings’, the concept of discrimination is attacked with reference to only minimal context. The first problem faced is that of the relationship between the areas of discrimination listed. If background, skin colour, sexual orientation and religions are not to be discriminated against, then why should religious views which endorse discrimination against those very same characteristics also not be discriminated against? Surely this challenge places these statements into an immediate uncertainty when applied to the context of particularism – the conceptual antithesis of universalism.

Secondly, the inherent universalism of the statement provides other salient questions – would Hitzlsperger not support discrimination against those of a sexual orientation which included paedophilia? What about those who’s personal backgrounds include all manner of discriminatory values and actions which Hitzlsperger himself would no doubt find reprehensible? It seems that the blind drive towards universal liberation hits a snag from the very beginning.

The nail in this philosophical coffin of a statement is hammered by the claim that he sees the statement as a ‘fact’. This exposes the all too common ignorant belligerence found in those who espouse the humanist position. As a statement it is clearly an ought claim due to the use of the word ‘should’, yet at the same time Hitzlsperger claims that this is also a “self-evident fact”. While I understand that Herr Hitzlsperger is not a philosopher, he may consider reading on why oughts are not facts in order to illuminate his position and improve on his activism for homosexual emancipation in sports.

The point I am making is that discrimination in and of itself is not an ill, but a necessity if one hopes to live a life which maximises autonomy and individuality. Thus discrimination should be assessed in the context of what it is applied to and not as a concept in itself devoid of context as Thomas Hitzlsperger is guilty of in this case.

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