Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ideology, Reasoning, And Political Engagement

I thought I would outline my way of thinking through political issues and engagement these days. I am by no means able to discourse dispassionately all the time, by any stretch. Yet as I have more fully embraced Catholic social doctrine, I have begun to observe that the process for arriving at a conclusion on any particular matter is more involved than a particular instance of political discussion--often more accurately characterized as combat--would lead us to believe. So, here is a sample of the kinds of questions I am now asking:

What is the common good, and what aspects of the common good may be served (or not) by a proposed solution?

Is a proposed solution to a problem intrinsically evil, that is, evil irrespective of circumstances, or good intentions?

Are there other principles related to the common good or to the intrinsic dignity of the human person (e.g. justice, solidarity, subsidiarity, etc.) that I need to be aware of? Does a proposed solution seem to violate any of them on the face of it?

Are the particular goals articulated achievable? How does the proposed solution achieve those goals, if so?

Can those goals be achieved more easily in another way? Why or why not?

Is a proposed solution, though not immoral in itself, actually Constitutional and legal in our political system?

How might my political philosophy affect my universe of possible solutions to any problem? Are those limitations reasonable? Why or why not?

How might I work with other elected officials (just thinking ahead) to achieve noble goals with reasonable solutions, once I determine that proposed solutions are moral, desirable, and possible?

That's a lot to think about! Most people start with, "Well, I personally believe x, therefore, this is the only right thing to do. Also, all who disagree are stupid, and/or evil." We now belong to a highly reactive and emotive political culture that's very toxic. If we're going to do better, we have to slow down, and practice virtues, both intellectual and spiritual. When Dr. Bryan Cross mentioned "motivated reasoning" the other day, it got me thinking (though I was desirous of a specific example) that it could take a couple different forms, whether a non sequitur, or a circular argument of some kind. In any case, it's a prejudicial kind of reasoning that closes us off from either good ideas, or good faith dialogue. I thought of an example of motivated reasoning, one I have done myself:

A vast majority of scientists believes that anthropogenic climate change is happening, and has been an urgent problem for some time;

However, communists, socialists, and other bad people also agree with them;

Many of those same scientists have done their alleged research with public funding, which indicates a conspiracy with those ideologues to limit my freedom;

Therefore, I will not consider any evidence of anthropogenic climate change.

We must do better, in all sorts of ways.

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