good questions, complex issues - One might distinguish between the merely moral norms of justice and the robustly unitive norms of charity, which exceed the demands of justice. Also, governments generally lack sufficient means to even meet the most fundamental needs that might be demanded by legitimate social justice ends and, hopefully constrained by subsidiarity principles (grounded in basic human dignity), are to be about merely providing for the basic public order and not otherwise co-opting the rights & responsibilities of individuals in meeting all the other demands of justice (beyond merely maintaining the public order), much less those of charity. Even if the members and/or subjects of a government should happen to share the same desired ends as a religion (motivated by charity), still, governments and religions would differ insofar as the former employs coercive means, by definition (govt is inherently coercive), while the latter does not, again, by definition (charity is inherently free). Ironically, though, many who resist statist economic impulses otherwise embrace a moral statism and vice versa. This is not to say that such leanings may not lead to virtue; arguably, they may even provide so-called schools of virtue. But such virtues advanced through coercion are not what I would call "theological" or charitable; instead, they are merely moral, merely an enlightened self-interest? Except for certain complex moral realities, ordinarily we might reasonably be able to stipulate that politics remains the art of the possible and that political dispositions less so differ vis a vis their moral outlooks but more so regarding practical strategies. With human dignity as our compass, principles like subsidiarity, the common good & a preferential option for the marginalized then guide our strategic decisions employing what are proper biases toward limited government and conservative approaches. Our biases toward legitimate established authorities and the conservation of accumulated human wisdom are weakly truthindicative, though, and not strongly truth-conducive. That is to say that just because that's how something was done in the past is no guarantee that it will necessarily be the best way to do it in the future, but it is a wise way to start out! Sometimes we must conserve; sometimes we must progress. We do not know a priori via rationalistic deductive logic grounded in ideology which approach will be the most helpful. Rather, we learn a posteriori via inductive testing which will work, so to speak, pragmatically. I prefer, then, to view conservatism and progressivism as charisms, with some folks being gifted with the talents of settlers, who maintain the homefront, with others being gifted with the talents of pioneers, who strike out on new frontiers. This is not to suggest that people thus self-identify, politically. Unfortunately, they treat what are merely proper 1
default biases of limited government and conservatism as absolutes, turning them into ideologies and ignoring the creative tensions of the subsidiarity principle. Or they treat the proper socialization impetus of the subsidiarity principle as an absolute, turning it into an ideology, forgetting that it is otherwise merely a necessary evil that should revert control and self-determination back to the lowest level possible at the earliest practical opportunity. As you wisely observe, this transcends political party divisions. Still, I affirm the value of our two party system and prefer to view its advocates as exercising differently gifted practical charisms rather than as they imagine themselves, which is as being in sole possession of absolute truths ;) Jacob re: the word "charism" 1) It was not employed analogically. 2) It has a secular meaning in social psychology. 3) Even when used theologically, it has both broad and narrow conceptions. Jacob re: the Spirit's presence or absence from political discourse, an incarnational (catholic) perspective would recognize the Spirit's influence in this or any country historically, culturally, socially, economically, even politically - as all good gifts flow from above, this despite personal and social sin and human finitude. Jacob - It is good that you recognize the prominent role played by prudential judgment. As I mentioned earlier, most governmental activities do not involve explicitly theological or even moral positions but, rather, practical strategies. Even regarding grave moral realities, people can agree on the ontological descriptions, metaphysically, the deontological prescriptions, morally, the canonical codifications, ecclesiastically, and the legislative remedies, legally, while disagreeing regarding the best practical strategies, politically --- asking what is the best way to achieve the goals we all share and which can we most likely advance now vs later? Of course, engaging facile caricatures of others' views and employing broad sweeping generalizations of political parties, which are all comprised of diverse multifaceted coalitions, is not helpful either. Well, Jacob, I do traffic in nuance. And I have not addressed any moral realities. So, good observation there. :) And. more importantly, I note your uniform and thank you for your service! (My son is in the Navy.) What I am trying to do, however, is to introduce some important distinctions and to break open some new categories that, in my view, could help discover some additional common ground between the many divergent political viewpoints as well as more precisely locate this or that political impasse. Of course, it is also important to establish agreement on basic definitions, avoiding broad generalizations and disambiguating 2
critical concepts. Finally, in a pluralistic society, we must also translate what are explicitly religious positions into arguments that are transparent to human reason. All of that may be too abstract. So ... Concretely, for example, roughly a third of republicans and GOP-leaning independents support legal abortion, while the same percentages apply to democrats and demo-leaning independents who self-describe as pro-life. Further, since the question of whether or not the criminalization of abortion would effectively reduce abortion is empirical, a matter of jurisprudence and social science, where one stands on its legality is not necessarily dispositive of one's moral stance. What we do know is that MOST people, regardless of their religious, moral or political beliefs, which are manifold, varied and heavily nuanced, want to reduce the number of abortions, therefore, it is helpful to come together and devise practical strategies to accomplish that shared goal. On the other hand, it is not helpful, in my view, to assume that political and legal and prudential judgments necessarily reflect anyone's moral reasoning regarding this or any other complex moral reality. It is especially unhelpful, then, to characterize what are essentially political movements and prudential judgments as evil or to apply sweeping categories like "the left," "progressives" or "the right" to groups of people whose underlying rationales are already known to drastically differ within the various factions and coalitions that comprise those groups.
My contributions to this thread are not theological. I'm not analyzing moral realities here either. And I'm not advocating any given political approach. I'm trying to introduce some categorical distinctions to help parse and frame political conversations at such a point where I think folks may have already stipulated to a significant level of agreement regarding certain political goals. I do resist the prevailing tendency among so many in our society, across the political spectrum, who insist on reflexively characterizing all political positions in terms of moral dispositions, demonizing others (and idolizing their own). You are spot on in that I do hold the view that what is good and moral is transparent to human reason without the benefit of special revelation and I do resonate with catholic social justice methodologies. To be fair to you and your articulate and spirited appeals, Jacob, please don't be frustrated that I am not engaging those specifics. It is because I have a personal policy of not engaging political and moral debates on facebook. (I do that at forums.philosophyforums.com from time to time.) My contribution here is philosophical, specifically metapolitical. So, we're talking past each other a tad because of this. For reasons stated above, I still have not discussed the moral angle. Sticking with prudential judgment angles: Beyond this 3
facile caricature --- "I morally object to abortion, but the law should not prohibit it" --- is a much more complex set of considerations having a lot less to do with whether the law SHOULD prevent it and a lot more to do with with whether the law CAN prevent it. Again, regarding THAT the number of abortions should be reduced, even eliminated, I hold that most would agree; it is HOW to best realize that most worthy goal where most people seem to differ. The statistics I have studied are readily available in Pew Forum, Gallup and other polls. Even then, in trying to devise legislative remedies, beyond the matter of trying to figure out what will work, there is also the extremely problematical matter of what is politically feasible? If one ignores that dynamic, as have so many ardent social conservatives for decades, there will be no "fruits" to show either due to ineffectiveness. Finally, a lack of bipartisan agreement regarding MEANS and STRATEGIES is not evidence against a broad consensus regarding ENDS and GOALS.