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Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Christiano

Democratia si dezacordul radical in societate (I)

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Continui serialul „Filosofia politica pe intelesul tuturor” cu o tema extrem de delicata: in conditiile in care in societate oamenii au pareri diametral opuse in privinta aproape fiecarui subiect posibil, in conditiile in care exista un dezacord atit de adinc pe multe teme sensibile, pe ce trebuie sa se bazeze factorii de decizie politica atunci cind elaboreaza legi?

Sa luam urmatoarele exemple. Presupunem ca intr-un stat X exista un dezacord prufund in societate privind casatoriile intre homosexuali: „traditionalistii” sint impotriva casatoriilor gay, „liberalii” sint pro. De asemenea, sa presupunem ca intr-un alt stat Y exista un profund dezacord asupra predarii in scolile publice a creationismului si evolutionismului: creationistii vor sa scoata teoria lui Darwin din manuale, iar evolutionistii vor sa elimine din aceleasi manuale teoria „Intelligent Design” (pentru scopul acestui articol, consider ca Intelligent Design si creationismul sint unul si acelasi lucru). Intrebarea care se pune este urmatoarea: pe ce trebuie sa se bazeze aceste state cind fac legi? In continuare vreau doar sa popularizez subiectul, deci nu voi face decit sa il schitez in citeva linii generale. Patru teorii principale au fost propuse pina acum pentru a rezolva problema dezacordului profund in societate:

1. Teoria adevarului. Propusa in special de Joseph Raz, teoria spune, simplu, ca politicile si legile trebuie bazate pe adevarul oferit de stiintele exacte si de cele socio-umane. Punctul tare al acestei pozitii este faptul ca ajuta la stabilitatea statului. De pilda, este un adevar socio-politic faptul ca, daca statul ar incuraja somajul prin ajutoare financiare substantiale acordate somerilor, atunci nimeni nu ar mai munci si toti (sau majoritatea) ar alege sa fie someri. Consecinta directa: nu ar mai fi bani pentru ajutorul de somaj (intrucit nimeni nu ar mai produce nimic) si statul s-ar prabusi economic (si politic). Este deci perfect normal sa bazam politicile privind somajul pe acest adevar social si sa descurajam nemunca. Punctele slabe ale acestei teorii ar fi doua. In primul rind, uneori nu exista adevaruri pe care sa bazam politicile noastre – sau daca exista, ele nu pot fi cunoscute, ori sint contradictorii. De exemplu, pe ce adevar am baza o lege privind eutanasia? Cei care o resping propun adevarul inviolabilitatii vietii umane, cei care o sustin se bazeaza pe adevarul demnitatii persoanei. Ambele tabere au dreptate, si aceasta teorie nu ne ajuta cu nimic in rezolvarea dezacordului radical dintre sustinatorii celor doua pozitii. In al doilea rind, daca am baza politicile statului doar pe adevar, am putea ajunge mai degraba la o dictatura a stiintei decit la democratie. Si nu trebuie sa ne gindim doar la „Brave New World” a lui Huxley (carte pe care o citesc acum cu mult interes). Putem da alt exemplu: din punct de vedere evolutionist, deci stiintific, homosexualii nu ajuta cu nimic specia umana, dimpotriva: alegind sa nu procreeze, de exemplu, aleg sa nu transmita anumite gene care pot face pe termen lung specia mai buna, mai bine adaptata conditiilor de viata, etc. Daca ne bazam pe acest adevar stiintific, atunci casatoriile gay ar trebui interzise – insa acest lucru vine in contradictie flagranta cu drepturile omului.

2. Teoria democratiei. Sustinuta de Thomas Christiano, teoria aceasta spune ca orice decizie politica este justificata daca: (a) este rezultatul unui proces democratic corect (de exemplu, al sistemului de vot); (b) respectivul proces democratic este recunoscut de cetateni ca fiind corect; (c) procesul democratic de care vorbim nu incalca drepturile de baza ale individului (drepturile omului, de pilda). Punctul forte al acestei teorii este acela ca, spre deosebire de precedenta, nu ia „adevarul” drept idol – ci interesele oamenilor, asupra carora acestia sint chemati sa isi exprime opinia (prin vot). Punctul slab este insa evident: intr-unul din exemplele date mai sus e vorba de predarea evolutionismului in scoli. Daca cetatenii ar fi chemati la urne, e posibil ca in statul respectiv sa se voteze in proportie covirsitoare introducerea creationismului si scoaterea evolutionismului din manuale. Si cum procesul democratic e corect, intrucit bifeaza toate conditiile puse de Christiano, atunci decizia respectiva ar trebui sa devina lege. [Nota: a spune ca decizia respectiva nu trebuie lasata la indemina cetatenilor, ci trebuie luata de specialisti in educatie si oameni de stiinta nu rezolva situatia cu nimic: pe de o parte, oamenii acestia sint numiti politic, deci tot de partidul care a cistigat alegerile, si care poate sa fi promis cetatenilor scoaterea evolutionismului din manuale; pe de alta parte, in Kansas si in Sebia teoria lui Darwin a fost aruncata la gunoi tocmai de specialistii in educatie numiti de puterea politica]

3. Teoria retinerii epistemice si a dublului standard. Impusa de Thomas Nagel, teoria aceasta face o distinctie intre ceea ce consideram drept adevarat si ceea ce poate constitui o baza pentru regulile traiului in comun propriu unui stat. De exemplu, un credincios mahomedan poate sustine ca legea sharia este necesara comunitatii pentru a trai conform prescriptiilor Profetului (iar Nagel ii concede credinciosului ca poate fi adevarat ce spune) – insa legea sharia nu poate fi propusa ca sistem juridic intr-un stat multicultural, unde exista si alte religii pe linga mahomedanism, exista atei, si asa mai departe. Mai mult, intr-un stat dedicat protejarii drepturilor fundamentale ale individului, sharia law nu poate fi acceptata. Nagel clarifica astfel o distinctie intre nivelul epistemologic (ce este / ce consideram a fi / adevarat) si nivelul politic (ce putem folosi drept baza pentru relatiile socio-politice intre cetatenii statului). Mai mult, el cere cetatenilor o „retinere epistemica”, in sensul ca nu ar trebui sa propuna pentru spatiul public legi bazate pe credinte sau adevaruri care nu se preteaza nivelului politic. Pentru a lua un exemplu deja mentionat: este stiintific adevarat ca homosexualii nu ajuta cu nimic evolutia speciei umane, dar acesta nu este un motiv pentru ca, la nivel politic, sa existe legi care sa-i ostracizeze. Punctul forte al acestei teorii este acela ca sustine un stat multicultural (unde fiecare grup si individ sint liberi sa considere ce doresc drept „adevarat”) si desparte politica (regulile de trai in comun intre indivizi) de metafizica (ce considera acesti indivizi drept adevarat si fals). Tot aici insa exista si punctul slab: daca eu consider ceva drept adevarat, atunci de ce sa ma retin din punct de vedere epistemic? Daca eu consider evolutionismul drept adevarat, de ce sa nu il propun ca fiind singura teorie predata in scoli? Mai mult: a spune ca nu trebuie sa propunem legi pe subiecte controversate nu inseamna a rezolva problema, ci a o ocoli.

4. Teoria abstinentei epistemice si a consensului larg. Gindita si popularizata de John Rawls, teoria se aseamana intrucitva cu pozitia lui Thomas Nagel. Aici ideea este ca, pentru a promova diverse politici si legi (pentru a rezolva dezacordurile din societate) trebuie sa cautam adinc in modul nostru de a gindi acele valori fundamentale asupra carora exista un consens larg, indiferent din ce grup etnic, social sau religios al unui stat facem parte. Conform acestei teorii, daca sintem in dezacord referitor la casatoriile intre gay, ar trebui sa revenim la acele valori fundamentale pe care cu totii le impartasim – de exemplu demnitatea persoanei, libertatea individului de a alege, etc. Conform lui Rawls, in acest fel rezolvam disputa, aratind „traditionalistilor” ca nu putem nega unui grup de persoane drepturile de care alte grupuri (inclusiv ei insisi) se bucura. Mai departe, atunci cind propun diverse legi pentru societate, cetatenii trebuie sa se conformeze regulii „abstinentei epistemice” – in sensul ca trebuie sa se abtina de la a propune legi asupra unor subiecte intens controversate; ei trebuie sa se refere intotdeauna la acel cumul de valori fundamentale pentru a justifica politicile sau legile discutabile. Punctul tare al acestei teorii este incercarea de gasi valori politice comune ale indivizilor ca cetateni ai statului, si nu ca membri ai diverselor grupuri etnice, religioase sau sexuale. Punctele slabe sint multe. In primul rind, apelul la valorile comun acceptate este cu doua taisuri. In cazul casatoriilor gay, „traditionalistii” pot raspunde aratind ca valorile noastre comune „crestine” sint primare fata de valorile politice, si astfel pot justifica interzicerea casatoriilor intre homosexuali. Apoi, chiar ideea de „valori comune” este controversata: dezacordul intre diverse grupuri ale societatii este atit de adinc tocmai pentru ca ele nu impartasesc valori comune, deci cautarea respectivelor valori poate fi o simpla vinare de vint, iar atingerea unui consens larg o iluzie. In al treilea rind, ca si in cazul lui Nagel, nu este clar de ce un cetatean ar trebui sa se abtina de la a propune o lege pe un subiect controversat, daca el considera ca detine adevarul in cazul respectiv.

Acestea sint cele patru mari teorii propuse in literatura de specialitate. Desigur, in cazul unora exista si versiuni. De pilda, in cadrul teoriei democratiei, Amy Gutmann si Dennis Thompson propun ca solutie la problema disensiunilor radicale din societate teoria „democratiei deliberative”, iar Chantal Mouffe teoria „democratiei radicale”.

Dupa cum am vazut, fiecare teorie are puncte tari si puncte slabe. Incercarea de a gasi o solutie posibila problemei dezacordului in societate poate cauta sa pastreze punctele tari din fiecare teorie, eliminindu-le in acelasi timp pe cele slabe. Saptamina viitoare voi incerca sa arat liniile generale de-a lungul carora cred ca o asemenea cercetare este posibila.

Reclame

Evolutionism Versus Creationism: Post-scriptum with Thomas Christiano

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In Bled (Slovenia) I had the great honor to meet and discuss with Tom Christiano. In my talk (“Does Liberal Neutrality Require Epistemic Abstinence?”), I advocated a Rawlsian version of the “epistemic abstinence” theory, according to which we should not build the basic institutions of a liberal democratic society on “the truth” promoted by one of the competing comprehensive views of the good, but on an “overlapping consensus” over the basic political (not metaphysical) values. Now, Tom Christiano advocates the opposite view, according to which a decision is authoritative if it is the outcome of a fair, democratic decision making (the decision-making procedure must be publicly recognized as being fair, and it must take into consideration the interests of everyone involved) [of course, the outcome is limited by the constitutional provisions regarding the basic liberal rights].

But take the following example. In some modern, liberal democratic states there is pervasive disagreement regarding the teaching of evolutionism and creationism in public schools. The evolutionists want to take religion off the textbooks, whereas the creationists want the same thing in what concerns evolutionism. How can a liberal democratic state solve this problem? Let’s apply the two theories to this example.

According to my “soft epistemic abstinence” theory, the state should say to the contending parties: “I am a liberal democratic state, and I have to further equally the interests of both of you. My political concern is not the ‘truth’ each of you advocates, but the way in which you can all live peacefully, and the way in which you can all have the possibility to further your own interests. According to this goal, the solution is the following: evolutionism is to be taught in biology classes, and creationism is to be taught in religion (and history of religion) classes. In this way, you can all further your own interests, while respecting the others’ constitutional rights of furthering their own interests”.

According to Tom Christiano’s view, there should be public discussions about evolutionism and creationism. Everyone interested in this debate should have the right to say her own point of view. Then individuals are required to vote one of these three possibilities: a) only evolutionism should be taught in public schools; b) only creationism should be taught in public schools; c) both evolutionism and creationism should be taught in public schools. If the decision-making process is fair, publicly known and democratic, then the decision is authoritative.

Now, my problem with this view is the following. Suppose that, in a particular state (say, Romania) people vote that evolutionism must NOT be taught in public schools. According to Tom Christiano, if all the democratic requirements have been met, then this decision is authoritative. But I feel uneasy with this solution.

Tom (who thinks that creationism is a stupidity) had several answers. First, he said that in a liberal democratic state many of us feel uneasy with many decisions – but we still have to accept them, as long as they are the outcome of a democratic decision-making process. Then he thought again, and he asked me why the teaching of evolutionism in public schools, in a democratic state, should be regarded as necessary, as long as the citizens rejected it through a fair and democratic process. And then he thought again. His final answer was that the only way to save evolutionism in such a case is to declare that some basic scientific education (evolutionism included) is necessary for citizenship.

Moreover, He told me that my solution is not exactly neutral – but it is a triumph for evolutionism. This is so because my solution accepts the teaching of evolutionism in biology classes, but it sends creationism from scientific to religious textbooks – and this is not quite a neutral answer. On the contrary, it safeguards evolutionism, while at the same time it diminishes the importance of creationism.

The discussion was long enough and it was late – we didn’t finish it. But I have two answers to Tom Christiano’s ideas.

First, to declare some basic scientific knowledge as necessary for citizenship seems a very controversial idea. I’m not saying that it is impossible to defend it – I’m just saying that there is much to be said in its favor. Moreover, if we accept this proposal, I do not see any reason to reject other proposed requirements for citizenship – for example, some basic knowledge in religious matters, or some basic moral knowledge, and so on. There are good arguments for supporting such requirements, but I will not discuss them here. I would rather say that it seems to me hard to defend some basic scientific knowledge as a requirement for citizenship, while rejecting the same status to basic moral or religious knowledge. And if we accept all these requirements for citizenship – then Christiano’s outcome is the same with my proposal’s outcome: evolutionism and creationism should both be taught in public schools.

Second, I do not agree with Tom’s critique, according to which my proposal is not neutral – because it favors evolutionism, by making it the single theory taught in biology classes. First, I think that I can explain to creationists that they don’t really want to see their theory taught in biology classes: they don’t accept this kind of science, so they shouldn’t care about it. They can teach evolutionism in religious classes – however these classes might be called (why not a distinct class, of “creationist biology” – indeed, “what’s in a name?”). There is, of course, the problem of the status of these classes. But I think there could be ways of solving this problem. We can device different combinations between “obligatory”, “optional” and “facultative” classes for both biology and religion. So the problem of neutrality could be in principle solved.

I am happy to see that me and Tom Christiano both agree with the outcome (evolutionism and religion should be both taught in schools). It is true that we have different ways of reaching this conclusion. But the debate is not over yet – or so I hope.

Written by Andrei Stavilă

iunie 10, 2008 at 11:09 pm

Philosophy Conference in Bled

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This year, the subject of the conference was „Social and Political Philosophy„. It started on Tuesday, June 3rd – and the last day was Friday, June 6th. So 4 days full od talks, from 09:00 to 17:00 (four talks per day, except Wednesday – when there were five talks, mine being the last – brrrr!!!).

The conference was extraordinary – really! I had the honor to meet and discuss with Thomas Christiano, Igor Primoratz, and Luc Bovens – and I also enjoyed the talks of Jules Coleman and Alistair Norcross. I was glad to find out that the Slovenian and Croatian moral and political philosophers are very good indeed (I especially liked the talks of Friderick Klampfer, Neven Petrovic, and Elvio Baccarini). I want to thank Tom Christiano and Luc Bovens for our wonderful discussions, which were very enriching to me.

It was my first conference and my first talk. Although I was the only speaker that was only a PhD student (all the other speakers were professors), I think it was ok (except the fact that my talk was the last that day, peopole were very tired – and I was tired and stressed, so I had to read the talk from the paper!). Anyway, the point is that I started to love conferences: you can meet wonderful people, hear extraordinary talks, and see beautiful places. I want more!!!!

In what concerns the town – well, Bled (Slovenia) is a turistic place, so it is very expensive (even more expensive than, for example, some German towns). It is a small city, you can see all the important things in only one day, or even less: the lake, the castle, the island with its church. The problem was that the weather was nasty: it rained the whole week, almost continuously…

Some pictures:

You can see more pictures from Bled here. Read about Bled here and here. The conference’s site is here.