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Conceding Good Faith

The fine folks at First Things have published an article of mine entitled, Conceding Good Faith. It's was fun to write, as it reflects on my time in D.C. among a group of hard-left, Peace Corps liberals (who happened to include my girlfriend - hence my inclusion).

The article touches upon the need, in most cases, for a mutual concession on good intentions in political debate. As Charles Krauthammer once observed:

To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.

At most, Krauthammer doesn't go far enough (maybe he doesn't have any Peace Corps friends). I suggest a sort of truce - if liberals truly want an end to toxic, impoverished political discourse, they must allow that conservatives also seek good ends, but simply disagree as to the most effective means.

I would wager most RONLT (Readers of NLT) have experienced similar trials. I hope you'll RTWT.

Discussions - 5 Comments

Good article. Thanks.

Oh yes, we have surely all experienced that political prejudice from the Left. We probably do all have favorite stories. I like yours. You put it well, Justin.

I repent of thinking liberals are stupid. Likely, I will have to repent again after my next argument with liberal.

The problem with the whole 'good faith' bit is that it sometimes breaks down if we examine it closely. E.g., what if you're discussing dignity of life issues with a devotee of Peter Singer (who holds an influential chair in 'bioethics' at a major university), who declares, following his mentor's sage wisdom, that parents should be allowed the legal right to have their children killed at will up to the age of 2? Somewhere along the line we simply have to recognize that willful, wicked denial of truth is in play, and declare our opponent a moral barbarian.

Well that all depends upon how much play you want to give to someone is who is analytically over-principled. Peter Singer is a strange fellow, but is also depends on what you want to think of "good faith" as. Hypothetically you could argue that someone who has the premises of a Peter Singer would be acting in "bad faith" if he compromised and didn't extend his utilitarian principles to the logical conclusion that parents should be allowed to kill children at will up to the age of 2. I would also question just how influencial a bioethics chair at a major university was. I am not exactly sure it is bad faith, but it certainly doesn't require a very robust "good faith", if you recognize that the conversation is entirely academic and not even close to the restatements, or model penal codes which themselves are semi-academic and have only a slight probability of comming to fruition.

In addition, "good faith" is really a sort of grease for business contracts. If you aren't really engaged in a transaction, then it is hard to know what exactly good faith is. I suppose a debate with Singer or a devotee would be a sort of offer, counter-offer type situation where the commodity is a philosophical system. Where the parties in good faith both hold to the expectation that no transaction or acceptance will occur. This is what is typically known as intellectual masterbation. Assuming there is a price point where a transaction could occur, it is also possible to recognize that the motive for accepting the proposition might not be acceptance of the proposition as an end in itself. I think it is important to recognize bad faith, or even more aptly different faith, and hold out the possibility that the desired end game of someone who argues that parents should have a legal right to kill children up to the age of 2 might not be agreement with the proposition or legal acceptance of it, and all indicia seems to point in this direction.

Good Article Justin.

But Doc's example of a hypothetical of a discussion with an influential academic utilitarian, has prompted me to find a conversation topic, with said fictional utilitarian. Lets assume you are right about the long run and the so called vangard left is right about the short run. That is by siding with the long run, you effectively do will the death of countless africans who will not receive medicine or food and that by siding with the short run they effectively will the death of countless africans and others in the future.

As a utilitarian how do you go about ballancing short, intermediate and long run probabilities? Also is some component of your Utilitarianism due in part to denying "good faith", or ethical concerns detached from effectiveness. That is the Kantian will not kill one innocent person to save 2 innocents, because this is essentially violates human dignity. But do you think the Kantian a murderer of 2 for not being a muderer of 1, hidding under good faith, or some feel good societial notion of dignity, that allows him to consider his actions commendable?

Also at an academic level, does it matter if someone recognizes you as a muderer, if logically from the premises they operate from you are?

That is if you are having a good faith debate with a Kantian, do you require him to aknowledge you as a murderer for your willingness to kill an innocent to save two innocents, and is he offended if you do not reciprocate by considering him a murder of two innocents?

Would a good faith agreement of the type Justin proposes destroy or at least infinitely complicate the coherence of your analytical principle?

That is Justin more seriously requires the "left-proggressives" to consider that he hates africans and wants them to die, just as they more seriously require Justin or "conservatives" to call them short sighted destroyers.

Is society so complicated by good faith, different faith, and bad faith, that academics who attempt to sort out dogma's are frustrated in their reliance interests?

I say that in order to preserve any sense of forseeability, it is absolutely imperative that Good Faith not be conceded.

Otherwise you might as well get rid of the comments section and just put up a "like" button a la Facebook.

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