Deliberative dishonesty (228)

More bashing Gutmann & Thompson questions and comments on the readings:

on William Galston:

*p. 41, and violation of parents’ integrity: Perhaps, if consider only parents’ integrity. What of children’s integrity? Isn’t the issue that the parents and the children may be at odds—and that acting as if were at odds leads to a taking of sides such that pull children on to school board’s side, against the parents? That is, that this is a matter of at least partial irreconcilability among the players, and thus only coercion can resolve issue, coercion which either protects parents’ integrity at expense of children’s, or vice versa?

*p. 44, on the difficulty of providing evidence that accommodating the dissenting parents would impede the development of civic values in the children:  Not really all that tough, if accept propositional arguments as evidence, eg, We live in a pluralist society, which means that citizens hold many different beliefs. Furthermore, all citizens are equal, and have equal right to hold those beliefs. As such, while you may not share those different beliefs, and while you may not want everyone to have a right to hold their beliefs, as long as you live in this society, it is not unreasonable to expect that you learn how to live amongst your fellow citizens—just as your fellow citizens must learn how to live with you. This does not require acceptance of beliefs you find repugnant; it merely requires that you recognize the fact of those other beliefs, and behave accordingly.
Now, were the board to require a kind of maximal behavior, they could legit be said to impermissibly impinge upon the integrity of the fundam parents, but as a minimum—merely learning about the existence and some basic facts about those different beliefs—it is a reasonable impingement. In other words, recognize the coercion involved, and justify the legitimacy of that coercion.
The problem w/G&T’s formulation is that they’re unwilling to admit the presence—or, for that matter, the necessity—of coercion, which leaves them open to charges of manipulation.
What may be required, then, is a discussion of the role of coercion in a democratic polity.

*p. 45, and the need for society to accommodate diverse groups as much as possible: Hm. And claims of equality? What if these diverse ways of life impede the ability of members of those different ways from, in fact, choosing to diverge from the way chosen for them?

*p. 47, on the need for society to prioritize liberty: Yes, liberty—but whose? The liberty of the group or sect or even of parents, or of the individual, whether member or not, or child or not? This is a difficult issue, but Galston barely considers it, raising it only briefly in the notes (#8)

*p. 47, that G&T’s delib ought to include those who might reject its (current) terms: This is always a difficult matter: what should advocates of tolerates do w/advocates of intolerance? I think Galston slides away from this as a general matter, focusing instead on the willingness of some parents to compromise w/one middle school. What to do if unwilling to compromise? He criticizes the board for its inflexibility—and may have a point in such criticism, not least because the tolerant should be flexible–-but doesn’t even this formulation scant the deeper conundrum?

on Stanley Fish:

Okay, I have to warn y’all: I find Fish highly irritating, and liable to juke around an argument rather than confront its difficulties. That said, he often finds (real) difficulties which others overlook, which makes him an irritating author worth reading. Usually.

* p. 89, if state neutral among positions, all controversies flattened into either distractions or impossibilities,citz denied opportunity to improve themselves: Ouch. But it does get at a certain tone in G&T, doesn’t it?

*p. 95, and the line ‘Mutual respect’ should be named ‘mutual self-congratulation, since it will not be extended beyond the circle of those who already feel comfortable w/one another.’— Always? That G&T have a problem w/fundam religious believers hardly means the phrase does no real work whatsoever. This is Fish’s pique getting in the way of his own reasoning.

*p. 95,    -G&T draw norms from academy & pol sci depts [HAH!]: ‘It is not accurate to characterize these men and women as ‘morally committed, for what they are committed to is not their morality but the deliberative process to whcih their morality is delivered up on the way, perhaps, to being abandoned. What they are committed to is the deferring of commitment in favor of an every attenuated ‘conversation’ whose maintenance is the only value they wholeheartedly embrace.’ —
Now Fish is engaging in the kind of argumentation of which he accuses G&T. Given that he’s not a pol sci prof, I question his version of what happens in pol sci departmental meetings as lacking in anything other than supposition. More to the point, he seeks to dismiss a particular point of view which he finds disreputable by cloaking that dismissal in a cloud of airy everybody-knows-this conclusion. So it’s only bad when others do this, Mr. Fish?

Okay, so I’ve finished Fish, and, in many ways I agree with him. Man: in many ways I agree with him.

I hate that.


About proftp

I teach political science and bioethics as an adjunct at a CUNY school.
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