Shuggy has an interesting post up in which he argues that there's a defensible place in the world for certain kinds of prejudice. He gives as an example his own opposition to the death penalty: he wouldn't be happy with basing this on utilitarian arguments, a philosophical approach he doesn't subscribe to; and he's not a pacifist and against all killing, because one has to allow for killing in self-defence. So he's left, he says, with a mere prejudice, but is evidently comfortable with having that particular prejudice, for which no one ever denounces him.
Shuggy's post raises two issues for me. First, I wonder if he doesn't give up too quickly on looking for a reasoned basis for being opposed to the death penalty. For example, couldn't he argue that the death penalty brings with it a virtual certainty of mistakes and therefore the killing of innocent people; and that the deliberate killing of innocent people is nearly always wrong even if it can be shown to have good (utilitarian) consequences?
Now, however - and second - one could say that Shuggy (or if not him then some other opponent of capital punishment) starts from this, the prohibition against deliberately killing the innocent, as a basic value, along with, or as an instance of, promoting human well-being, upholding fundamental human rights, trying to be just, or what have you. Is subscribing to some basic moral values itself a form of prejudice? We don't normally say so: and I think that is because, although somewhere in any moral argument we're bound to reach rock bottom, so to speak, reach certain principles that we regard as fundamental and cannot get 'beneath', even once we get there we don't have to give up on reasoning. If someone presses you back in the course of an argument to your most basic moral principles - asking you, 'Ah, but what's so great about justice, or benevolence, or not killing the innocent?' - then, though you may not be able to go any deeper than those principles, you don't have to give up on attempts at rational persuasion. You can still say, 'Well, look - imagine the world like this, without justice or benevolence, or with random killing.' Will you necessarily convince your interlocutor? No. He may be Max Monstrous, who looks forward to, and hopes to bring about, the Age of the Giant Meatgrinder. And you may therefore have to fight and defeat him and his kind, together with all the allies you can muster. But you don't ever have to give up on reasoned conversation.