At the top of this blog, under the page titled “Basic Precepts,” you will find a post titled “Form & Function,” in which I explain that a thing is not defined by what we call it, but rather, by its form and function. This post uses this basic precept to explain how and why compromise should be considered the negation of principle. The purpose is to help you better understand what it means to compromise, and to then use this understanding to evaluate when and where we can properly do so without ‘compromising’ our values.
As always, we start with a definition:
1a : a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption
c : the laws or facts of nature underlying the working of an artificial device
As you see, the concept of a principle is something that must be fixed and unchanging, such as the laws of our universe. Now, let’s look at the definition of compromise:
2: a concession to something derogatory or prejudicial <a compromise of principles>
Compromise means to concede one’s principles. In other words, compromise means to give up on ones principles. This means that compromise is the negation of principle. Therefore, those who routinely compromise on principle are demonstrating that they have no principle at all. And the person who has no principles can know no morality – save that which suits them for any given purpose at any given point in time. You can never trust them because they are subject to change their mind without notice or reason. To them, it’s all just “compromise.”
The majority of the modern world – especially the Western world – has rejected the notion of principles. In fact, it has become fashionable to reject the assertion that anything is or can be fixed. Instead, we have embraced the post modernist notion that everything changes; nothing is fixed. Everything is defined according to how each individual perceives it. Therefore, compromise is the way we show ‘sensitivity’ toward others because it allows us to incorporate their definition of reality into ours. This allows us to avoid ever having to tell anyone they are wrong. It also allows us to avoid ever having to admit we are wrong, or to face the consequences for being wrong. And to defend this self-delusion, we have accepted the argument that anyone who is rigid in the defense of what they believe is ‘dogmatic’ and, therefore, somehow outside of ‘proper society.’ In this manner, we can live our fantasy and defend ourselves from ever having to face reality.
The problem with this sort of thinking is that we live in a world that is built upon and operates according to fixed principles. And, though we may choose to ignore the fixed principles of objective reality, they will not ignore us. Sooner or later, they will reassert their dominance over our willful ignorance. And this is why principles are important – especially when they are reasoned against actual observations of the world in which we live.
Often times, when a discussion about compromise comes up, someone likes to interject that famous and revered people compromised. Our founding fathers are frequently used as an example of compromise. However, when we actually examine these objections, we usually find that the result of those compromises makes the case for not compromising principle. In the case of our founders, they made few concessions to their principles. What they compromised on was how to achieve their common goals. These are two different things: like taking two different roads to the same destination. And where they did compromise on principles, such as the issue of slavery, we can see the damage it caused to society. This issue still echoes through history today, as do several other areas where they compromised their principles of individual rights and liberty.
This is why we must know what we believe and why: so we know where we can compromise, and on what issues we can never give ground. And it is in what we decide our principles should be and why that we find Truth.