Notes From Babel

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Metaphysics Is for Everyone

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In one of those dragged out, merciless threads about the existence of God and the origins of the universe and the nature of reality and all that heavy stuff, Jason Kuznicki  sticks a pin in and lets some air out.  Somehow, Jason says, we all seem to manage to get along, even while we disagree out this allegedly fundamental stuff.  That “metaphysics has very little to offer except folly.”

I take the general sentiment.  And I enjoy the passage from Candide he shares.  But I cannot agree that our metaphysic, our worldview, our underlying presuppositions about what it means to be a human in this world among other humans, is some trifling matter that has no bearing on human affairs outside the cigar room.  These questions define our starting point on questions of values, on the purposes in our conduct in and attitudes about society, government, politics, the law.

One could roughly say that crying uncle at these sorts of “meaning of life” questions is expressed in the moral philosophy of utilitarianism, and the political theory of libertarianism.  It was encapsulated in President Obama’s response to a question during the press conference on November 3.  When asked whether the recent routing of his party indicated that people had rejected his policies (this was the third time he had been asked this basic question), he said it was not a rejection of his policies, but rather an expression of frustration at the results.  Watered down and polished up, this is what amoral political ideology sounds like:  actions have no value in themselves; only outcomes matter.  In familiar terms:  the ends justify the means.

What is obvious to nearly everyone—particularly exasperated liberals—is that Americans reject this view of the world.  Even while Europe leads the way to a post-modern, post-cultural, post-normative wasteland where all things are permitted, encouraged, and subsidized , Americans continue to cling to a worldview where actions matter, and consequences are evidence of that, not anomalies or inconveniences to be stamped out through regulation and social programs.

All of us subscribe to fundamental values.  But not all of us can account for them.  Some of us subscribe to religion and tradition.  Some of us simply pick them out as we might items at the grocery store.  But we all have them, and they play a defining role in our actions and attitudes in our institutions.  It’s important stuff.  We ought be able to account for it.

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Written by Tim Kowal

November 6, 2010 at 11:11 am

The New Science and the Abolition of Objective, and Especially Religious, Morality

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I came across this new batch of stats, linked from Howard Friedman’s blog, declaring that religion’s messages about homosexuality is “negative.”

The PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service, found that more than 4-in-10 Americans gave religious organizations a “D” (18%) or an “F” (24%). The number of Americans giving places of worship low marks is more than twice as many as give them high marks; Only 5% of Americans give them an “A,” and only 11% give them a “B.”

A plurality (43%) of Americans say the messages coming from places of worship are negative, and 4-in-10 Americans believe that these messages contribute “a lot” to negative perceptions of gay and lesbian people. One-third (33%) of the public also believe that messages from religious bodies are contributing “a lot” to higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth, and another third (32%) say these message contribute “a little;” only 21% say they do not contribute at all.

There is a bunch more percentages and numerators and denominators in the original article.  Thinking about it, the whole thing is frightening.  Notice that the emphasis of the poll is whether church messages about homosexuality are “positive” or “negative.”  What might that mean?  The only metric suggested is whether these messages are “contributing ‘a lot'” or “‘a little'” to higher rates of suicide.”  There is no methodology set out that would explain why there is any merit to this correlation.  And one wonders whether the recent and widely publicized suicide of a young homosexual student colored the perception of the poll’s respondents.

Getting to the point, no account is taken of the difference in values among the poll’s respondents, other than to refer to the fact that church-going respondents are likely to give their own churches higher marks, and to suggest younger respondents were harsher on religion than older ones.  Do the respondents believe homosexuality is good?  Bad?  Indifferent?  What proportion of the respondents hold these respective values?  Were they asked to consider their values when responding to the poll?  To disregard their views?

This is the point, of course.  Values are not merely besides the point of this study.  They are the enemy of it.  First, consider this short passage from Eric Voegelin’s The New Science of Politics about our modern/post-modern/post-post-modern/whatever era and its steady march in the agglomeration of ever more facts, studies, polls, and data.

The use of method as the criterion of science abolishes theoretical relevance.  As a consequence, all propositions concerning facts will be promoted to the dignity of science, regardless of their relevance, as long as they result from a correct use of method.  Since the ocean of facts is infinite, a prodigious expansion of science in the sociological sense becomes possible, giving employment to scientistic technicians and leading to the fantastic accumulation of irrelevant knowledge through huge “research projects” whose most interesting feature is the quantifiable expense that has gone into their production.

Now consider the focal point of the contemporary discussion about values.  Mainstream Christianity, as well as Judaism and Islam, take morality to be objective, that actions and things in nature have values in themselves.  The relativist strain of normative thought, in contrast, teaches that morals are not “out there,” but that they are instead subjective, personal assessments.  Thus, the moral objectivist looks at a waterfall and says “that is sublime,” whereas a moral relativist looks at the same scene and says, “no, the waterfall has no such content in itself.  Rather, by looking at it, I have sublime feelings.”

As C.S. Lewis put it in The Abolition of Man:

Until quite modern times all teachers and even all men believed the universe to be such that certain emotional reactions on our part could be either congruous or incongruous to it—believed, in fact, that objects did not merely receive, but could merit, our approval or disapproval, our reverence, or our contempt. . . . The man who called the cataract sublime was not intending simply to describe his own emotions about it: he was also claiming that the object was one which merited those emotions.  But for this claim there would be nothing to agree or disagree about.

. . . .

[On the other hand, in the relativist view in which value statements refer only to emotion], the world of facts, without one trace of value, and the world of feelings without one trace of truth or falsehood, justice or injustice, confront one another, and no rapprochement is possible.

It is not hard to see in which camp belong the pollsters who conducted the above study.  To focus only on how the respondents “felt” about the respective churches’ messages, without regard to whether the messages themselves are right or wrong, good or bad, strips the values expressed in those messages of any association with things in the world.  No longer are values about homosexuality actually about homosexuality—they are simply about how the declarant happens to feel about homosexuality.  And, as NPR’s CEO put it, feelings are between the man and his psychiatrist.  Once we’ve isolated the issue to the mind of the speaker, all that’s left is to call the speaker a bigot, escort him out of the public arena, and the issue is won.

Written by Tim Kowal

October 23, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Atheism’s Intellectual Procrastination

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I was heartened a while back to read that other writers feel as I do about blogging:  the time exacted in securing my continued employment often leaves me with only abbreviated periods for bathing and dressing and grooming and other rudimentary civilities.  It is usually not possible to write about something at the moment the inspiration strikes, so I resort to jotting down ideas throughout the week, and then referring back when I finally get a moment at my poor neglected computer.

But I did not have to resort to my list to remember what I wanted to say about the plea of beleaguered atheist Ilya Somin to stop demanding philosophical rigor from atheists.  As I’ve explained before (see, e.g., here and here), the problem with atheism is that does not replace what it purports to tear down.  Theistic models of reality draw connections between the transcendental worlds of continuity and universality—the world of the forms.  Atheism denies these models, but fails to provide any systematic, cogent theories to replace the models it rejects.

Responding to Ron Rosenbaum, Ilya Somin puts it this way:

Atheism is not a complete theory of the nature of the universe. Rather, as I discussed here, atheism is simply a rejection of the existence of God, by which I mean a being that is omnipotent, omniscient and completely benevolent (the definition [traditionally] accepted by [the vast majority of adherents] of the major monotheistic religions). One can reject the existence of God without believing that we “can or will be able to explain how and why the universe came into existence.”

Sure.  And so may a toddler reject his supper without being able to explain how or why he would be able to continue existing without sustenance.  Atheists tend to be deeply confused about what “atheism” actually means.  One may make the statement “I do not believe in God” in isolation from any other statements about the universe.  But it would be an idle and worthless statement—a toddler rejecting all manner of food. One may believe in an idea without fully appreciating or believing the ideas necessarily deriving from the idea.  Thus, while one may be an atheist before he can fully “explain how and why the universe came into existence,” he is immediately and continuously under an intellectual duty to engage in providing a cogent answer to these problems.  Atheism cannot be merely passive or destructive.  It must fill the intellectual gap it creates, not simply revel in sacking others epistemological systems.

To make the point another way, consider the environmentalist mandate of “sustainability.”  As it turns out, in order to have true sustainability, all humans on the planet would have to live well below the U.S. poverty level.  Thus, once we unpack the rhetoric about sustainability, we find that all this sweet talk about Mother Earth, taken seriously, would mean a devastating and far-reaching impact on the behavior of every single American—even the very poor.  I can blather on about “sustainability” as a vogue multi-syllabic political expression.  But if we are actually talking about the meaning of words and ideas, then “sustainability” means something very radical and severe.

Something similar occurs with atheism.  One can say “I don’t believe in God” as a glib expression of one’s anti-authoritarianism and wide-eyed skepticism.  But it actually means something very severe—particularly if it also means “I do not believe in anything that transcends empirical phenomena.”  This is a profound statement that tears down important metaphysical underpinnings in one’s view of the world.  If the author of such a statement has any interest in talking seriously about ideas, he will have to posit an alternative theory of reality that can account for them.  Ilya Somin presumes to reduce this argument down to a quip, that

The “new atheists” whom Rosenbaum attacks also don’t rely on any comprehensive theory of the universe in making their case against the existence of God. Writers like Harris, Hitchens, and Dawkins have their flaws; but believing that they can explain the origins of the universe isn’t one of them.

To the contrary, this is precisely their problem.  One has to have a viable theory of the universe in order to graft on any viable theories about anything else. I can reject that the idea that suspension bridges can safely carry any passengers across them.  But I would not expect anyone to hire me to perform maintenance on the Golden Gate Bridge unless and until I could posit a viable account for the successful passages to date.  Atheists, however, don’t feel the need to account for how we can know anything about objective reality or morality without God.  As Somin puts it:

But how can atheists rule out the possibility that God created the universe if they don’t have an airtight alternative explanation? The answer is that it’s often possible to rule out one potential explanation for X even if we don’t know for certain what actually caused it. For example, I don’t know why I had a headache a couple days ago. But that doesn’t mean I can’t rule out the theory that it was caused by a witch’s curse. There is strong evidence against the existence of witches with magical powers that isn’t tied to any particular explanation for the origins of my headache. Similarly, if we have strong arguments against the existence of God that are not tied to any specific cosmological theory, we have good reason to be atheists even if we can’t explain why the universe exists.

Talking about witches and the slimy-custard-man is a typical ploy that non-serious atheists use to rally any humans with a functioning intellect to their cause.  “You do believe in science, don’t you?  You do believe aspirin can cure your headache better than enchanted bat’s feet, don’t you?”  This is misdirection.  Atheists can’t account for how anything can cause anything if they don’t posit a transcendental explanation for the workings of reality.  David Hume observed that while we may see a billiard ball begin to move once it is struck by another billiard ball, we cannot ever actually observe anything called “causation.”  The best we can observe is “constant conjunction” between events—one even happens, and then always another.  “Causation,” for all its importance in making sense of our reality, cannot be explained by the purely empirical model of the world that atheists have adopted.  All we know is we remember always seeing two things happening together.  We then assume—for we cannot know—that what has occurred in the past will occur likewise, always and forever, into the future.

This, certainly, is faith.

And yet, atheists continue to refuse the demand to account for their theory of reality, of morality, and of truth.  Somin expresses his refusal thus:

My purpose here is not to provide a comprehensive argument for atheism. That can’t possibly be accomplished in a blog post. Rather, I want to make the much narrower point that such an argument doesn’t require a demonstrably true alternative explanation for the existence of the universe. And most serious atheist writers do not in fact rely on the claim that they have such an explanation.

Somin laces this thought with a clever qualification in an attempt to make it unassailable.   Pleading that atheists cannot be expected to provide a “demonstrably true alternative explanation for the existence of the universe” is melodramatic.  The whole problem with accounting for the nature of reality is the limitations of our senses—that is, theories about the universe cannot be “demonstrably true.”  But this is not the task put to atheists.  Their problem is they have provided no alternative explanation for the existence of the universe, whether “demonstrably true” or otherwise.

At any rate, that “most serious atheist writers do not in fact rely on the claim that they have such an explanation” is precisely why the atheism of these writers cannot be taken seriously.

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Written by Tim Kowal

July 24, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Atheism, Philosophy

Tagged with ,

Shopping Cart Epistemology

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Ilya Somin writes about Ireland’s recently enacted law banning “blasphemy,” and asks why secular worldviews are not on par with religious ones.  “Contrary to conventional wisdom, I don’t see why it is more objectionable to criticize Christianity or Judaism as opposed to conservatism or Kantianism.”

While being careful to note my objections to the law, it is important to note that “secular” worldviews are not on par with many established, systematized religions, particularly the big three—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  Systematized religions  posit universal metaphysical and ethical building blocks of their worldviews.  Being open about the foundations of their worldviews allow for meaningful hermeneutics and exegesis of Scriptures and other relevant texts, discussions about teleology and eschatology, and systematic ways to discuss ethical issues and other aspects of our social and cultural institutions.

So-called secular worldviews, by contrast, do not set forth these essential tools for positing a coherent worldview.  Instead, they tend to “borrow” from some other underlying religious and/or cultural framework. They tend to focus on one particular ethical or epistemological puzzle and, while they might provide an interesting and even satisfying approach to it, it leaves other questions unanswered.  Scienceists chastise all extra-empirical knowledge, following David Hume’s call to cast such things into the flames.  And yet they provide no response to Hume’s unanswered questions as to how causation and induction—absolutely vital to conducting any science—can be established, since these things are themselves extra-empirical.  Instead, they simply posit certain extra-empirical truths, as one might place items from the market shelves into a shopping cart, in order to make science work.  The existence of causal relationships and that nature never behaves arbitrarily cannot be justified in any purely empirical epistemology.

One needs a way to make sense of the world in order to ever do science or design laws and political policies and social institutions in the first place. When you take on this project piecemeal, we call it “secular.”  But once you start to flesh out the contours and nuances of how an system of human thought and knowledge and social institutions might work, it will start to look a lot like religion.

Of course, I don’t suggest that Ireland was concerned with any of this when it enacted its anti-blasphemy law.  Ilya is much closer to the likely concerns when he discusses how religious talk evoke visceral and sometimes violent reactions from their adherents, for a variety of reasons.  I only wish to point out that, even were religious views not stored so closely to the emotional centers of the brain, there are principled intellectual reasons to distinguish religious from “secular” worldviews—in short, because any “secular” worldview that could go toe-to-toe with a religious one will have become a religion in its own right.  Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is a nice example.

Written by Tim Kowal

January 10, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Posted in Philosophy, Religion

Moral Values Are Premises, Not Conclusions

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God does not ponder the human race in general.  At a single glance he sees separately all of the beings of which humanity is composed, and he perceives each of them with the similarities that bring [each one] closer to all and the differences that isolate [each one] from [everyone else].

God therefore has no need of general ideas; that is to say, he never feels the necessity of enclosing a very great number of analogous objects under the same form so as to think about them more conveniently.

It is not so with man.  If the human mind undertook to examine and judge individually all the particular cases that strike it, it would soon be lost in the midst of the immensity of detail and would no longer see anything; in this extremity it has recourse to an imperfect but necessary process that both aids it in its weakness and proves its weakness.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Univ. Chicago Press, 2002  (Mansfield and Winthrop, eds.) at 411 (emphasis added).  What a lovely and subtle admonition against over-extending the faculty of classification.  At the heart of libertarianism is the broad, general idea that no law is valid that circumscribes action that does either physically or economically harm another.  This premise is honest, elegant, and powerful.

But it is also an over-simplification.  At its core, libertarianism, in hopes of “purifying” the Law, prevent its subjects from incorporating into it the values of the people that could not be distilled into strictly cause-and-effect terms.  This ignores that many of the important beliefs of a community cannot be articulated in this way.  As Tocqueville said:

Dogmatic beliefs are more or less numerous according to the times.  They are born in different manners and can change form and object; but one cannot make it so that there are no dogmatic beliefs, that is, opinions men receive on trust without discussing them.  If each undertook himself to form all his opinions and to pursue the truth in isolation down paths cleared by him alone, it is not probable that a great number of men would ever unite in any common belief.

Now it is easy to see that there is no society that can prosper without such beliefs, or rather there is none that could survive this way; for without common ideas there is no common action, and without common action men still exist, but a social body does not.  Thus in order that there be society, and all the more, that this society prosper, it is necessary that all the minds of the citizens always be brought and held together by some principal ideas; and that cannot happen unless each of them sometimes comes to draw his opinions from one and the same source unless each consents to receive a certain number of ready-made beliefs.

If I now consider man separately, I find that dogmatic beliefs are no less indispensable to him for living alone than for acting in common with those like him.

If man were forced to prove to himself all the truths he makes use of every day, he would never finish; he would exhaust himself in preliminary demonstrations without advancing; as he does not have the time because of the short span of life, nor the ability because of the limits of his mind, to act that way, he is reduced to accepting as given a host of facts and opinions that he has neither the leisure nor the power to examine and verify by himself, but that the more able have found or the crowd adopts.  It is on this first foundation that he himself builds the edifice of his own thoughts.  It is not his will that brings him to proceed in this manner; the inflexible law of his condition constrains him to do it.

Id. at 407-08.

This practical epistemology is expressed in our judicial system as the concept of judicial notice.  Generally, facts may be submitted to a court only through a rigid set of procedures to ensure authenticity and veracity.  However, some facts—those that are commonly known in the jurisdiction, and whose truth cannot reasonably be controverted—are exempt from these procedures, and a court will readily take notice of them.  As Singh v. Ashcroft, 393 F.3d 903, 906 (2004) put it:

Every case “involves the use of hundreds or thousands of non-evidence facts.” . . . . Administrative cases and the review of administrative decisions are no exception to this universal truth. An agency or an appeals court could not function if it had to depend on proof in the record of facts “capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot be reasonably questioned.”

(Citing rule 201 of the Federal Rules of Evidence.)

Certain “facts” that political man must assume are those whose truth is a premise rather than a conclusion of human reason.  This is perhaps the only way that even such fundamental concepts as causation and universal order—absolutely essential to purporting to hand down a judicial opinion—can be observed.  Were we to require an explication how one thing “caused” another, we would never leave the armchair. Thus, in the sense of taking the concept of causation as a conclusion that must logically follow a series of demonstrated and proven premises, it could not only be “reasonably questioned”—it is as unproven as a thing possibly can be.  For what does it mean to “cause” something?  We see one thing happen, then another.  The billiard ball draws nigh to another billiard ball, and suddenly the second ball moves.  We never see causation; it is simply a story we tell to satisfy our innate desire to impute interconnectedness and order on the world around us.

Thankfully, it is not as a conclusion that causation is accepted as a truth, but as a premise:  we could make no sense of our experience without simply accepting that the sudden movement of one billiard ball is “caused” by its being struck by the other, and that its velocity and trajectory are sound indicators of how similarly situated billiard balls will behave in the future.

Similarly, as far as the argument goes for purposes of political theory, moral truths can only be taken as premises.  Any justification one might give as to why any number of things are good can only devolve into an appeal to yet some other moral good.  At some level, engaging in any moral debate assumes that the participants agree on some basic moral premises.  If they are sharp and insightful thinkers and effective advocates, they might be able to demonstrate, once those shared moral premises are uncovered, how reason and intellectual consistency lead inexorably to his position, or at least to the untenability of his opponent’s position.

But political order was created not merely for litigators.  Meaningful participation in civil society requires that its members take notice of certain truths.  The enshrinement of certain of those truths in the law serves this function.  Particularly in secular society that grows more and more skeptical of both religion and tradition, there is increasingly scant commonly accepted authority to which to appeal in asserting the legitimacy of certain cultural norms.

Moral truths are not the sort that can be demonstrated by syllogism.  They are part of a cultural conversation.  Some morals eventually prove they carry their own weight, while others prove counter-productive and are discarded.  But the fact that individual citizens cannot account in strictly rational terms for the legitimacy of their moral beliefs—even, and particularly, for the strongest of them—does not suggest they should be barred from expressing those views in their laws.  James Buchan observed in The Authentic Adam Smith: His Life and Ideas, that “Adam Smith was aware that he was prone to the fault of the ancient philosopher Epicurus, which was ‘the propensity to account for all appearances from as few principles as possible’.”  Id., W. W. Norton & Co., 2006 (paperback ed. 2007) at 8.  Many philosophers commit this same error of insisting that all the complexities of human experience be first reduced to the strictures of logical reasoning before it may be regarded as legitimate.  While we as heirs of the Enlightenment should tread lightly in imposing our moral values by legal coercion, we should not believe those libertarians who suggest that it is in all cases verboten.

Written by Tim Kowal

December 17, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Initial Thoughts on the Importance of Moral Philosophy

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One more point about why we need a tenable underlying moral framework.  Start from the example of business transactions.  A businessman engages in several transactions every day, and rarely, if ever, concerns himself with whether the legality of the transaction can be enforced.  He simply assumes there is an underlying legal framework that, when called upon, will be available to translate his transaction into legal terms involving primary rights, primary duties, causes of action, justiciability, and so forth.  From time to time, the capability of that underlying legal framework must be demonstrated to the businessman, whether at such time when he needs resort to it, or when he learns of his colleagues’ and competitors interactions in it.  If the legal system fails to prove to men’s minds that his transactions may be enforced through clearly defined laws objectively and rationally applied, it will be no longer useful.

Something similar may be said about morality.  It is true that one will not often, perhaps ever, happen upon any person who doubts whether, because no transcendent moral order can be empirically established, such thing as a moral evil can ever exist.  But this has more to do with the fact that we happen to be the successors of a long train of adherents to a particular moral code.  However, moral quandaries do still  come up.  When they do, it becomes necessary to resort to more formal systems of moral philosophy that identify the origins of our moral beliefs, and whether they adhere to a rational, orderly, consistent structure.  And, in particular, whether they can end their regression in some non-arbitrary place, or whether it simply winds up positing a moral opinion not unlike the one they started with.

Written by Tim Kowal

November 19, 2009 at 11:12 pm

That Infinite Moral Regress Is an Unlikely Topic in Polite Company Is No Answer to It

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Heather MacDonald gripes about the common objection to atheism that, without a transcendent moral order, no appeals to moral authority are possible and, ultimately, any atheistic moral system fails.  Heather’s rebuttal runs as follows:

Would someone please provide an actual example of such endless moral regress without the God trump card?  If I may borrow a phrase from my misspent youth, it seems to me that we are “always already” embedded in a moral environment far more complex and sophisticated than the blunt pronouncements of the Ten Commandments (i.e., those not commanding obsequiousness before God).   The question of some original source beyond human law and custom for our most basic principles, in my experience, never comes up.

. . . .

I have simply never witnessed the need to reference to God to establish the validity of our laws against extortion, say.  Real-world moral disputes are more complicated:  Is health care a right?  Who should pay for it and how much should one group pay for another’s health care?  Is economic regulation theft?  Is theft admissible to stave off starvation?  We answer these questions by drawing on our innate and developed moral intuitions and our society’s legal framework.

But this is to confuse public morality with formal morality. We do not subject our laws to the rigors of formal philosophy and morality and epistemology. We must accept certain fundamental truths as given in order to go on with political and legal life. But that is not to say that such formal inquiries are without value. Though we plod ahead from the place of our intellectual beginnings, from time to time it is important to have a look behind us. As Tocqueville put it:

Dogmatic beliefs are more or less numerous according to the times.  They are born in different manners and can change form and object; but one cannot make it so that there are no dogmatic beliefs, that is, opinions men receive on trust without discussing them.  If each undertook himself to form all his opinions and to pursue the truth in isolation down paths cleared by him alone, it is not probable that a great number of men would ever unite in any common belief.

Now it is easy to see that there is no society that can prosper without such beliefs, or rather there is none that could survive this way; for without common ideas there is no common action, and without common action men still exist, but a social body does not.  Thus in order that there be society, and all the more, that this society prosper, it is necessary that all the minds of the citizens always be brought and held together by some principal ideas; and that cannot happen unless each of them sometimes comes to draw his opinions from one and the same source unless each consents to receive a certain number of ready-made beliefs.

If I now consider man separately, I find that dogmatic beliefs are no less indispensable to him for living alone than foracting in common with those like him.

If man were forced to prove to himself all the truths he makes use of every day, he would never finish; he would exhaust himself in preliminary demonstrations without advancing; as he does not have the time because of the short span of life, nor the ability because of the limits of his mind, to act that way, he is reduced to accepting as given a host of facts and opinions that he has neither the leisure nor the power to examine and verify by himself, but that the more able have found or the crowd adopts. It is on this first foundation that he himself builds the edifice of his own thoughts. It is not his will that brings him to proceed in this manner; the inflexible law of his condition constrains him to do it.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Univ. Chicago Press, 2002  (Mansfield and Winthrop, eds.) at 407-08 (emphasis added).

Written by Tim Kowal

November 17, 2009 at 11:25 pm