Monday, February 22, 2016

Intolerance and rationality posted February 22, 2016 at 12:01 am by Fr. Ranhilio Aquino

The blows dealt him by his critics—not counting the dent in his finances from Nike’s decision—certainly stung more than any he had received in the ring.   Many of them were completely disproportionate; many of them were grossly unfair.   But he could have been better advised.   I do not know what Aling Dionisia and Jinky advised him, but he should have sought wise and prudent counsel. There could have been a way of making the same point in less abrasive a manner.   Similes and metaphors can be enlightening. In this case they were distracting and destructive!
What should really set off alarm bells, however, is the virulence and hysteria of the reactions coming in the wake of Manny’s rejection of same-sex unions. And the paradox should not escape any thoughtful person: What we saw was a display of ferocious intolerance in the name of tolerance! Pacquiao was called a bigot, an ignoramus, a human-rights violator, a discriminator. The proponents of same-sex unions it seems are intolerant of opinions other than theirs, a posturing they claim is the proper disposition of tolerance!
Plurality is the distinctive phenomenon of modernity.   Conceptual frames, value systems and ideologies once controlling have not really disappeared. They merely have lost their grip because a plurality of alternatives is now available and tolerance for this often-confusing plurality has been rendered normative by a particular rendering of democracy and the transmutation of tolerance into constitutionally guaranteed rights: the freedoms of religion, thought and expression, research and dissemination principally.
But tolerance is no magic formula, no master-word.   In fact, it is self-limiting. Our tolerance for a variety of religious beliefs, no matter how bizarre, has engendered a dangerous society that harbors individuals who are quite willing and frankly determined to kill and maim in the name of God.   And that is just the problem with a society that has discredited the notion of natural law. When the objective referent of all discourse has been eliminated, how does one deal with contradictory propositions except through “tolerance” which simply means allowing contradictions to exist side by side, until the time comes that it becomes impossible for them to do so. And for the starry-eyed who foolishly think that contradictories can continue in peaceful co-existence, our dangerous times should be clear proof of the folly of this assumption. By “self-limiting,” I point to the dangerous times we live in.   There are many for whom the utterance of a contrary view is “blasphemous.” Paquiao’s fate is a more recent demonstration.   He expressed his opinion—thinking that the Constitution allowed him to do so—and reaped a whirlwind of national opprobrium!
The problem is not with natural law but with those who do not understand it, and I fear it most when people who should know better utter it with the contemptible unction of the pretentious! Many think it as the argument that makes of propositions of fact statements of norms—the famous accusation that natural law effects the illogical shift from “is” to “ought.” “The door is open,” therefore, “It ought to be open.”   That is clearly ridiculous, and I know of no proponent of natural law—none especially among the High Scholastics who wrote prodigiously on it—who thought of it in this fashion. And G.E. Moore who is credited with having formulated the charge of the “naturalistic fallacy” did so only to advance his own agenda: to make of normative propositions a class all their own, leaving dangerously open the question of their rational and discursive anchorage!
To refer to natural law is to allow for the arbitration of “sound reason.”   In other words, it is to insist on reasonability and the settlement of disputes by the sheer force of argument.   “Satyagraha”—truth-force—is what Gandhi called it.   “Communicative action” is what it is for Habermas. Is the matter of same-sex unions together with other contentious issues ultimately a matter of “choice” with no way of settling the disagreement? Ultimately then, a matter of live and let live, in the full knowledge that at some time, it is no longer possible for contradictories to “live” together? But unless one has given up on rationality, which is ultimately a very dangerous thing, then there has to be a way of deciding the issue.   When one claims that his faith in God obligates him to blow up and send to kingdom come all who do not share his belief, and another claims that his faith commands him to love even his enemies, surely this is not a disagreement that will be quieted by the mantra of “tolerance,” precisely because one position is intolerant!   There has to be the willingness to argue one’s position, to adduce argument, to rebut opposition and to allow the better reason to prevail.
But, aye, there’s the rub.  How many are there who are willing to allow the better reason to prevail?

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