Thursday, November 12, 2009
Hear hear to Rick's Iran post. This fellow to whom Rick refers seems labor under an all too oft-encountered confusion -- a confusion that I suspect amounts to a symptom of what our colleague Steve Shiffrin calls 'public reason disease.' The public reason idea, of course, is that citizens in a pluralist polity should make policy arguments to one another in a common idiom, and make appeal to grounds that are accessible to all. But 'accessible' is never defined, and there appears to be a working assumption on the part of those who demand that accessibility that people who hail from faith traditions enjoy some mysterious, radically inaccessible episteme. Not surprisingly, these people also quite typically charicature the kinds of arguments made by those who are prompted to political action in part by their moral-theological commitments. It is as if I were to say, 'I just saw a burning bush. Therefore, feed the poor.' This is not the nature of moral and political argumentation engaged in by people of faith, and to say that the presence of political argumentation proceeding on moral-theolical grounds just is theocracy is to blunder into the most vulgar of conflations. I'm all for 'public reason' in any polity, especially a pluralist one. But most of the moral-theological reasons we encounter both within religious traditions and between members of distinct such traditions or even no such traditions *are* public reasons. As Terrence, I believe, put it: Nihil humani me alienum puto.