Thursday, July 3, 2014

Thesis...Antithesis...Death to the Infidel...

A poster on Facebook recently asked "Do you A Enjoy our political debates B Enjoy my personal stories C Enjoy my attempts at humor D Enjoy my sports stories E Like a good variety. F Wish I would give it a rest and quit clogging up your Facebook pages."

The interesting thing about discussions is that they are by and large not discussions. Those who take part in discussions who see governments as the essence of evil in the universe, for example, are not engaging in discussions grounded in empirical evidence or facts. They are simply expressing their ideological beliefs in dogmatic statements that are similar to Christian catechisms of the past and present. Like religious dogmatists they expect you to agree with them. It is the old tried and unfortunately true I am OK if you want to be OK you must believe like me ideological stratagem.

Now I want to add another wrinkle to this discussion of political and economic discussions. Many on the right--political, religious, economic--are more inquisitors than discussants. They believe that only they are "real Americans" and that anyone who disagrees with them are trying to undermine the American way of life (see the sadly looney response of many on the right to Obama's presidency for empirical proof of this statement). All of this points up the need for what Dennis Potter calls heterodoxy.

Facts are facts even if we recognise that the world we humans have created is socially and culturally constructed. Napoleon did invade Russia in 1812. Why he did and the various viable interpretations (hermeneutics) of why Napoleon invaded (economic, political, cultural, geographic, demographic) Russia point up the need for a realisation that facts are multiply interpretable and that a variety of interpretations may be viable at one and the same time. And as Jarvis Paisley notes we all need to respect and listen to these various viable and valid interpretations. But we should never forget that opinions worth respecting have to be valid and viable interpretations first.

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