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Monday, December 02, 2019

Yes, I Will Impose My Values On You

Because that's what governments do. That's what politics literally is: public morality. If we make choices about what "marriage" is, or we decide that the makeup of a family is a matter of taste, we necessarily disfavor those traditional views.

We also suffer the consequences of failing to appreciate those realities whilst being awash in misplaced sentimentality and false notions of "equality".

I suppose we'd always sought refuge in "freedom," believing that a healthy pluralism would make room for our views, too. What if that viewpoint neutrality was always a ruse, an illusion?

I hold Mr. David French in the highest esteem. His work to make America livable for all of us should never be forgotten. But maybe the biggest mistake is to believe that most people want to be reasonable.

Or perhaps the illusion was so plausible because most Americans and their neighbors around the world still benefited from the West's consensus about the nature of reality. It's true that Christianity is the beating heart of Western civilization. It's also true that it's not faith per se that makes it work.

Metaphysical realism is what made it work. Metaphysical realism asserts that it is possible to know reality though the use of reason. There is a coherence to reality as we know and can observe it.

When the West slid into philosophical skepticism--the assertion that we cannot know reality as reality through reason--we lost the consensus upon which everything prior had been based. It is perhaps amusing in a morbid way to hear an atheist rave in a Christian society; we treat them like a "crazy" uncle or aunt who drank too much at Thanksgiving. Setting aside faith or the lack of it for the moment, what are we supposed to do when people claim we can't be certain about anything?

Religion hasn't gone anywhere; it's just fractured, and more significantly divided between those systems that assume faith is in harmony with reason, and those that assume it is not. Escape from the world, versus transformation of it. Fideism--faith apart from reason--is ascendant. People aren't just fideistic about religion now; they're becoming fideistic about everything. Bring on the charismatic cult leaders and hucksters.

Somewhat amusing is the realization that the perception that an evil cabal is imposing itself on us, and that "the people" are fighting against them, depends entirely upon what the cabal is selling. (And whether you agree with it/them.)



Sunday, December 01, 2019

Some Implications Of Politics As Public Morality

Everyone has almost a practiced habit of lamenting the incivility of politics today, and that's not altogether wrong. The conversation is uncivil, often emotional, and illogical.

On the other hand, there is a privilege inherent in telling everyone else to calm down. Personally, I get angry when real issues of justice are at stake. I don't want to sing Kumbaya, politically speaking, with those who don't recognize children in the womb as persons, or who think separating families at the border as a punitive measure to discourage illegal entry is acceptable. As a consequence, the memes telling us all to just "get along" are patronizing and stupid.

I know I find default libertarianism kind of stupid. A sort of dependence on the fact that large segments of the populace could and would find various instances of federal government conduct excessive, silly, or otherwise injurious to some notion of individual liberty has the curious effect of obscuring the fact that libertarianism is completely outside the pale of the Catholic philosophical tradition. If the public presentation of a philosophy is focused upon winning "converts" among the politically engaged in our country on all sides, the reality that libertarianism undermines political authority as such is hidden from view.

Pipe dreams about radically limited government don't sound too correct or reasonable to people who need the government, practically speaking.

What is political authority--that is, government--for? We need to have theoretical and philosophical conversations about that, before we have conversations about "the issues". Especially when "the issues" are nothing more than hooks for us to express our mutual disdain for the opposing "tribe."