Sunday, March 27, 2005

my comments at CT, on intellectuals in politics and moral absolutism
"The socially conservative argument has tremendous moral force, but doesn't accord with the reality we see when we walk through a hospice. The socially liberal argument is pragmatic, but lacks moral force."

The moral force of the liberal argument is contingent on the moral seriousness of the individual actors, not on the rhetorical power of collective history and will.

I wish as always that people would look more often beyond the logic or illogic of the argument, as if they were equations that may or may not perform the function ascribed to them (they won't always), and examine them merely as thought and language.

This is the old contradiction of faith in a pluralistic society. It's been talked over and over. Seeing life as a continuum is as much a sign of faith as seeing it as black and white. Th important distinction is not in absolute but political morality: does our respect for the opinions of others within our community supersede the obligations of our faith? If the society is to continue, one hopes it does. This being said, the best response to Brooks is not to parse the internal logic of his arguments on this case but to expand an analysis.
Brooks is also an economic conservative and therefore an intellectual Bush supporter. Given Bush's economic policies... etc. Is Brooks consistent across subjects and if so does that strengthen or weaken his position?

Ronald Dworkin did a nice job on the abortion debate a couple of years ago, making the quite logical point that since most people who were otherwise opposed to abortion accept it in cases of rape and incest the debate is not about the absolute value of life- a fetus that is the product of a rape is no different in itself from one that is the result of consensual sex- but the sense among conservatives that the issue is not taken seriously enough. Conservatives want merely to enforce a moral seriousness. Those who believe in an absolute value, those who oppose abortion in all cases are a small minority (as are philosophers. and for the same reason.)

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