[lit-ideas] Re: Reason and Politics

  • From: wokshevs@xxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2006 14:19:41 -0230

Quoting Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>:

> Walter Okshevsky wrote:
> Suppose someone were to aver: 'There is no true freedom of religion in a
> democracy if there is no freedom to burn heretics and apostates as required
> by our religion.' What would the proper response be to such a claim?"
To which Phil Enns replies:
(while basking on the flour-like, powdery, white sands of a wonderously balmy
Atlantic Canadian beach in October):

> Responding to another problem of reason, and surely as good a defence of
> liberal democracy as has been made, someone once wrote:
> "Unfortunately for speculation (but perhaps fortunately for the practical
> vocation) of humanity, reason sees itself, in the midst of its greatest
> expectations, so entangled in a crowd of arguments and counterarguments that
> it is not feasible, on account either of its honor or even of its security,
> for reason to withdraw and look upon the quarrel with indifference, as mere
> shadow boxing, still less for it simply to command peace, interested as it
> is in the object of the dispute; so nothing is left except to reflect on the
> origin of this disunity of reason with itself, on whether a mere
> misunderstanding might perhaps be responsible for it, after the elucidation
> of which perhaps both sides will give up their proud claims, but in place of
> which reason would begin a rule of lasting tranquility over understanding
> and sense."

Well, that's one hell of a sentence! (Yes, look at it again; it's one sentence.)
So we cannot respond with indifference, and certainly not with Rortain
insouciance (sp?), nor may we legislate the truth onto others. If a defense of
liberal democracy involves only the formal exhortation to avoid the rock and
the hard place (as we say here in Newfoundland), then surely it remains
vacuous. I fail to find any defense of liberal democracy here, nor any
direction in coping with the distinctive kinds of problems raised by illiberal
cultures within a liberal (constitutional) democracy. Nor can I make any sense
of the notion of the "disunity of reason with itself." Reason could not be
reason if it permitted contradictions within its parameters. (Surely not
everything a great philosopher writes is great.)

Walter O.
Memorial U.

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