Will Wilkinson says the following:
First, I don’t believe in a priori anything. My view is very similar to my one-time grad advisor Michael Devitt in his aptly titled paper, “ There Is No A Priori.” There is only one way of knowing: the empirical way! . . .
Where I definitely part ways with the conservative is that I think it is both possible and desirable to critically evaluate our “full-bodied tradition” — to identity inherited habits of feeling, such as patriotism, that have generally pernicious consequences, and to argue against them on those grounds. (Perhaps Foster should consider that I’m hard on patriotism not because I don’t appreciate the overriding power of moral emotion, but because I do.) This evaluation isn’t done “on a chalkboard,” but through a delicate, messy, and indeterminate process of seeking wide reflective equilibrium — the process of detecting and eliminating internal inconsistencies within our traditional moral judgments, and then detecting and eliminating inconsistencies between our refined judgments and the well-established findings of the psychological, social, and other relevant sciences.
The problem with this is that it’s wrong.
Wilkinson believes that "the only way of knowing" is empirical. By this, he seems to me that he can "critically evaluate our ‘full-bodied tradition’" and render judgment unto it (from on high).
The conservative belief is that this action is impossible for one human being – or any group of human beings – to do. No one can: 1) completely conceive of the entirety of our tradition; 2) understand all possible alternative states; and 3) determine which state would be best.
Wilkinson, however, believes that he can. This belief of his is an a priori belief. There is absolutely no empirical reason to believe that 1-3 are possible. He takes it as a priori true that it is possible. Finally, this belief is obviously the most conceited possible belief that a person could hold. I think it’s difficult to believe in an omnipotent God, but it’s fucking crazy to believe in an omnipotent Wilkinson.
He then goes on to discuss patriotism, which he blithely tells us has "generally pernicious consequences."
This example illustrates my point. Does patriotism have "generally pernicious consequences?" Some types of patriotism do, some don’t. When patriotic societies are compared to unpatriotic or apatriotic (if I can invent a word) what do we see? It’s hard to say, since the latter types don’t last long.