[lit-ideas] Re: Reason and Politics

  • From: wokshevs@xxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2006 15:50:15 -0230

Reply to Phil cont'd:

Quoting Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>:

> Walter Okshevsky wrote:
> "Surely not everything a great philosopher writes is great."
> True, but here the Sage of Koenigsberg is spot on.  So let me try to unpack
> that wonderous sentence.
> '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.'
> If someone were to aver the above, it would appear to produce a
> contradiction, namely, that the freedom of a [liberal] democracy must
> include the freedom to rob others of their freedom.  This claim, however, is
> problematic in two distinct ways.  First, the argument involves the
> rejection of its own presupposition.  To burn heretics and apostates is to
> deny the freedom of religion presupposed by the claim that burning heretics
> and apostates is permitted by freedom of religion.  We have, then, a
> misunderstanding of reason regarding what is entailed by freedom of
> religion.
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
The debate continues here:

> It would be good if pointing out this misunderstanding of reason were
> sufficient for resolving the problem, but it isn't.  Reason becomes
> preoccupied with its contorted paths and fails to step back and realize that
> it aims for peaceful social relations.  

W: 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. 

> In this case, reason ought to step
> back and realize that burning those who fail to share ones own beliefs
> cannot produce a peaceful and enlightened society.  The use of reason is not
> a good in itself but is good when it aims towards the good society.  

W: To which my religious friend replies that you are dealing with a false
dichotomy here: there can be no good society that is irrational and anything
contrary to the revealed word of scripture is not only unholy but irrational. 


>A use
> of reason that includes the reduction of freedom for others produces a
> disunity.  

W: Precisely. I am equally as much an "other" as the others. Freedom of
religion, the Establishment clause, etc., permits no violation of my religious

> Recognizing that reason aims towards a lasting tranquility of
> sense and understanding, one is forced to step back from the argument in
> order to identify where reason went off the rails and then, hopefully, in
> humility once again engage in reasoning to pursue ones proper goals within a
> liberal democracy.

W: My religious friend is keenly anticipating your own abdication, or at least
modification, of your "proud claims." Where is that to be found? (Virtual
poltergeisten visit me again. See next message.  Cheers, Walter

> What makes this such an ideal defence of liberal democracy is the manner in
> which orients reason within the political realm.  In a liberal democracy,
> reason has its proper end and it is that end that guides the proper use of
> reason.  A liberal democracy is not a Rortian 'anything goes' nor is it a
> framework within which one pursues, according to a brutal rationality,
> ideological outcomes.  Rather it is, borrowing from Oakshott, a ship at sea
> that aims for a distant unseen shore, using reason to adapt to changing
> conditions.  Reason is not for itself but rather a means for arriving at a
> truly free and enlightened society, surely a message as relevant today as it
> was over 200 years ago.
> Sincerely,
> Phil Enns
> Glen Haven, NS
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
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