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political philosophy


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									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 truth-
indicative, 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
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
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 meta-
political. So, we're talking past each other a tad because of

For reasons stated above, I still have not discussed the moral
angle. Sticking with prudential judgment angles: Beyond this
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


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