Wednesday, February 03, 2010

(2) Religious beliefs do not answer ultimately (or at the limit) to evidence and reasons, as evidence and reasons are understood in other domains concerned with knowledge of the world. Religious beliefs, in virtue of being based on "faith", are insulated from ordinary standards of evidence and rational justification, the ones we employ in both common-sense and in science.
The above by Brian Leiter from "Why Tolerate Religion?" Quoted by Andrew Koppelman in "No Respect: Brian Leiter on Religion" [SSRN]

They both should spend more time around criminal law, and lawyers who argue the causes fate hands them rather than those they choose. The mandate against the institutionalization of religion can and should mean simply that there is no special place for it and the express right to freedom of religion can be seen logically, in its historical context, as the equivalent of statements of the right to be free from racial discrimination, with no special rights.

No two people can ever know between them what truth is; the best they will do is agree, and agreement is a function of social life not of the absolute. The law is designed first and foremost for conflict resolution, truth itself is always private. As I always remind people, the rule of law protects us from the [mis]rule of reason. Steven Weinberg's belief that we "need to know" certain facts about the universe is as irrational as his racism, if less divisive. I wouldn't interfere with his right to have his curiosity follow his tastes any more than I would want the state to mandate against his phobias, though I might argue against funding his research, compared to funding work on AIDS and Malaria. I might or might not, and either why it's an opinion and a matter of values, not truth. Leiter's response to Brian Tamanaha in their arguments over formalism and realism seem to me to be as based on faith, as opposed to empiricism, as his defense of a naturalized epistemology that sounds (again to me, in my opinion) like desperate science envy. His philosophy tracks with science, in his fantasies, and he's unwilling to defend the humanities as such as having value, so his defense of philosophy falls flat. Read the Guardian link he posts. Did they really need a "philosopher" or would anyone with an imagination have been good enough? Maybe a parish priest who's a good judge of people.

Leiter pretends that philosophy is technical and cumulative but the facts and history seem to show only that tastes change. Remember that according to Leiter and his friends "history is bunk". [see the first post yesterday or begin here] I remember Leiter smiling fondly at Jerry Fodor saying with mild contempt that he -Fodor- didn't even know anyone in Comp Lit, though I know from another source that Fodor thought it was odd that one of his colleagues had friends outside the academy itself.

Academics' work -as expertise- represents their preoccupations to themselves. Some academics like to look out the window but it's not enough. Scholasticism is academic formalism, when outside information undermines that formalism the data is ignored. The formalism of practicing lawyers on the other hand is the formalism of craftsmen, of rhetoric, not as a model of the objective world but of communication. The formal tropes of oratory are not the formalisms of mathematics. Yet that equation is precisely the model now in the academy: the model of a science of rhetoric. The goal of mastery of a skill has become the goal of the mastery of truth. A formal structure used for clarity is now imagined as a self-supporting manifestation of ideal order. That is a very dangerous logic. Leiter doesn't understand language, he doesn't understand law. He doesn't understand his relation to the world -beyond his fantasies of it- and he doesn't understand democracy. Neither do most academics.

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