[lit-ideas] Re: Reason and Politics

  • From: wokshevs@xxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2006 12:05:38 -0330

Quoting Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>:

> I had written:
> "Reason becomes preoccupied with its contorted paths and fails to step back
> and realize that it aims for peaceful social relations."
> to which Walter Okshevsky replied:
> "How it is that reason is to be teleologically defined in this particular
> manner needs justification. But that notwithstanding, my religious friend
> claims that no peaceful social relations are possible with individuals who
> deny one's right to religious expression. The entire state and society
> suffers (in this life and the after-life) if Harry Potter is permitted in
> the schools (sorry, wrong debate.) Indeed, it is a properly construed
> understanding of "peaceful social relations" that legitimates the killing of
> individuals who fail to recognize the ortho doxa and live by it in word and
> deed."


> A condition for the proper exercise of reason is freedom.  This freedom is
> not the freedom to believe whatever one likes but rather the freedom to make
> the case for one's beliefs before all people.  

W: Xians, and others, believe that a liberal state constitutionally enshrines
the right to freedom of religion precisely because one of its fundamental
tenets is that the believer is not required "to make the case for one's beliefs
before all people." The rights of religious groups (be they in the minority or
majority) are not parcelled out in accordance with the truth of their beliefs -
a truth they need to make a case for through public argument. To so require the
believer is precisely to violate her right to religious freedom.

> One can, of course, appeal to
> like-minded folks, Kant's 'private use of reason', but this appeal can only
> have force for those like-minded folks.  To take this local appeal as having
> general force is to abuse reason and limit freedom.  It is an abuse of
> reason in that it uses arguments intended for like-minded folks as public
> arguments.  It limits freedom insofar as it constrains the range of
> acceptable public beliefs to those held by a particular group.  Where one
> has a use of reason that constrains freedom, the constraint of freedom
> serves as evidence that reason has jumped the rails.  In short, one can
> evaluate an argument regarding freedom of religion by stepping back from its
> convoluted paths and asking whether it does violence to the ability people
> have to make the case for their religious beliefs.  Where there is such
> violence, there is necessarily a lack of freedom.
> As Walter notes, many people have put forward arguments claiming that peace
> is achieved by enforcing ortho doxa.  These arguments fail in numerous ways,
> but for my purposes it should be pointed out that reason is formal in nature
> and therefore does not provide us with the beliefs we ought to hold.  Where
> reason is employed among like-minded people, Kant's 'private use of reason',
> there will develop ortho doxa.  However, in the public sphere, where
> differences in goals and attitudes allow for a minimal degree of consensus,
> no such ortho doxa is possible.  

W: Xians don't find that "minimal degree of consensus" in the public sphere and,
again, claim they are not required to do so by a liberal state (regardless of
what Davidson has to say.) 

>(To defend this claim, I would draw on
> Davidson's article on applying conceptual schema to the world.)  Since
> reason does not provide ortho doxa within the public sphere, and any attempt
> to restrict people's ability to make the case for their religious beliefs is
> an act of violence and constraint of freedom, killing individuals who fail
> to recognize the ortho doxa of a particular group is both irrational and a
> rejection of freedom of religion.
W: For the Xian, it is precisely this type of secular humanist ideology that the
majority is trying to force down their throats; a form of compulsion especially
egregious when forming part of the curriculum of public schools. It is that
ideology, she continues, with its false universalization of principles of
autonomy and critical thinking that is responsible for denying Xians their
right to act on the belief that the truth rests in Xian Scripture and must be
accepted and abided by through the grace of faith. As Moya Stolzenberg renders
it in her article in Harvard Law Review, "you are drawing a circle that shuts
me out." (The context of her analysis is different, though structurally the
cases bear much in common.)

Walter C. Okshevsky

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