esposito's box
Friday, March 25, 2005
  "Reasonable Doctrines"
This post got me thinking. I think Marianne's delineation of conservatism and liberalism teases out interesting ideas. However, I think she may be too quick to equate the evangelism of the religious right with the arbiters of enlightenment values. Extrapolated out, a state committed to theocratic principles would be just as liberal as a state committed to liberal democratic principles. Rawl's Political Liberalism sees the same problems she suggests:

"A continuing shared understanding on ONE (my emphasis) comprehensive religious, philosophical, or moral doctrine can be maintained only by the oppressive use of state power....In the society of the Middle Ages, more or less united in affirming the Catholic faith, the Inquisition was not an accident; its suppression of heresy was needed to preserve that shared religious belief....A society united on a reasonable form of utilitarianism, or on the reasonable liberalisms of Kant or Mill, would likewise require the sanctions of state power to remain so. Call this 'the fact of oppression'" (Rawls Political Liberalism 1996, 37).

While my own experience cannot fathom a Kantian or Millian society as "oppressive" as that of the Spanish Inquisition, one can understand how a singular "comprehensive doctrine" would be especially oppressive to one who agrees with goals of the Inquisition. It would be, as Marianne suggests, mutually exclusive.

However, the foundation of the Political Liberalism which Rawls puts forth derives from Kantian tradition. And in it, reasonable pluralism demands concessions. As Rawls writes,

"A society can be well-ordered by a political conception of justice so long as, first, citizens who affirm reasonable but opposing comprehensive doctrines belong to an overlapping consensus: that is, they generally endorse that conception of justice as giving the content of their political judgments on basic institutions; and second, unreasonable comprehensive doctrines (these, we assume, always exist) do not gain enough currency to undermine society's essential justice" (Political Liberalism1996, 38-9).

We need to distinguish between "reasonable" and "unreasonable comprehensive doctrines" in order to assess Marianne's redefined liberal/conservative dichotomy. If religious rightists agree to seek their ends by making appeals within the institutions of our system, then, even if we disagree, we recognize their method as reasonable. If, on the other hand, they justify their demands based on divine will, and in the meantime subvert the institutions of liberal democracy and its conceptions of justice, then we can reject their method as unreasonable.

Ultimately, while the same requirements apply to those of us who wish to "finish the Enlightenment project," it seems to me less of a problem for our comprehensive doctrine to be reasonable. This very method of public reason is illustrated by Marianne's post where she examines her own motivations based on liberal values. Until conservative evangelicals make en masse the same kind of self-reflection Marianne does, the varieties of "conservatism" are not equal: one form is "reasonable," and the other "unreasonable."
Small steps to international involvement in stopping the genocide in Sudan came today with authorization of the deployment of a 10,000 troop peacekeeping force. (via NYT).
According to a former marine captain there in Darfur (in an NPR interview) this is about half of what truly would be required, but a good start. It's at least a response anyway.
The extant reality of genocide is profoundly considered by Samantha Power in "A Problem from Hell", required reading in this incipient century. Absolutely chilling writing.
Friday, March 18, 2005
  Flogging Stories
I was thinking about the left's seeming inability to get out ahead of stories in regard to ANWR, and lo, I am reminded of an article by Peter Boyer in this week's New Yorker. There is an interview online with Boyer, so you can get an idea of what it's about without a subscription. In short, it deals with the pseudo-story about schools banning the Declaration of Independence arriving just in time for Thanksgiving discussions about America in decline. These media-hyped pseudo events astonishingly cast a pall over all Christian holidays. If you think something is not being baked for Easter right now, then you are fooling yourself.

Update: The Terri Schiavo event is shaping up as just this type of event. In fact, many of the same figures from Boyer's article figure in this case--The Alliance Defense Fund, for example. In any case, what ever your politics, if an Easter dinner amongst mixed political company looms in your future, I hope nothing comes to blows.
  Things Not to be Undone
Taking interest in environmental causes has led me to pay attention to ANWR and the unceasing desire some have held to add a few barrels to oil reserves and many dollars to a few pockets. What a disappointment. For so much of the rightist onslaught on social programs in this country, I have salved my worries by telling myself this overreaching will lead inevitably to a more progressive rise in government, which, in turn, returns more socially-conscious programs.
Unfortunately, wilderness cannot be brought back. Those who argue that people precede nature should bear in mind that ANWR pits people against people. Chicago Tribune reports that Episcopal Bishops are lining up behind those in opposition to Republican designs:

"Bishop Mark McDonald of Alaska said President Bush's plan to allow drilling--which the Senate supported Wednesday in a 51-49 vote--would destroy the habitat of the native Gwich'in people, 90 percent of whom are Episcopalians."

In addition, Barry Lopez puts forth a compelling argument for nature reserves for those, unlike the Gwich'in, who do not feel directly connected to remote wild treasures:

An argument for wilderness that reaches beyond the valid concerns of multiple-use--recreation, flood control, providing a source of pure water--is that wild lands preserve complex biological relationships that we are only dimly, or sometimes, not at all, aware of....An argument for wilderness that goes deeper still is that we have an ethical obligation to provide animals with a place where they are free from the impingements of civilization. And, further, an historical responsibility to preserve the kind of landscapes from which modern man emerged. (Crossing Open Ground 1989, 80-1)

This progression suggests three different forms of survival: physical, ecological, and cultural/historical. As Lopez argues, we need outer expanses where we only visit in order to spiritually comprehend so much of our inner expanses. Read the whole book.

For ANWR, I hope it's not too late. It has been a downer that we do not have a mechanism for flogging our most important issues in the press. Please contact Congress if you have yet to do so.
  Dad's Article
My Dad is a photography professor at USU and just this month there is an article in the Smithsonian Magazine about his Barrier Canyon Project. You should read it, and look for more info here. In any case, I am quite proud of my Dad. His photographic work has spanned a gamut of interest areas: documentary, figure, landscape, etc. And throughout his career, he has focused on perfecting less-used printing methods like carbon printing and photogravure in addition to remaining abreast modern advancements with digital photography. All in all, quite impressive.
It's cool, a multi-purpose shape, a box.


Nic Nic Nic Nic Nic

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