Monday, January 23, 2017

A Word to the Wise...

...which needs continual reiteration but will nonetheless clearly be unremembered and unregarded in the sectors of society that need it most:

The first and most basic and most essential form of politics is reasoned discourse. This follows directly from the fact that human beings are rational and therefore social creatures; it is the actual structure of functional civilization; and it is a requirement for any just society. If you have any political view -- and I mean any political view, however clever the sophistry and rhetoric with which you fancy it up -- that does not treat reasoned discourse as the heart of civilization, then your view is a politics of coercion and violence, based on a principle that might makes right. At this level there is no third option: either politics is, in its foundations, by reason or it is by force.

There are, of course, other aspects of political life. The world being as it is, people will sometimes attempt to shut down reasoned discourse by force; and thus reasoned discourse must sometimes be protected by a countervailing force. But the point must be to protect reasoned discourse, because that is what it is to protect civilization. People will sometimes not participate in reasoned discourse in good faith, deliberately manipulating it in ways inconsistent with itself; this might, once one has established clearly that it is occurring, require things like protesting, or shunning, or shaming, or even rioting or revolution. But if you are just, the point of these things will be to restore the priority of reasoned discourse. And if the point is not to do that, you are unjust.

It is by interacting rationally that we receive common good as a legacy; it is by interacting rationally that we form common good as moral progress; it is by interacting rationally that we protect and preserve common good against political corruption. If you have any political view, if you perform any political act, that does not recognize rational communication as the fundamental kind of politics, you are not on the side of justice, no matter how loudly you insist that you are. Indeed, you are not on the side of justice even if you are advocating a thing that happens to be just; you are simply a snake in the grass. In anything and everything, the just will give shared reason its due. Anything else is sophistry -- literally, in fact.

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