Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A bracing blast of Krauthammer

"In Defense of Certainty" is very, very good. Read the whole thing.   

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Masterful rhetoric indeed, while failing to illuminate the real issues.

1) Belief/certainty and doubt/uncertainty are not simply opposites, but related in a very complex way in the "religose Wesen" itself (to borrow Nietzsche’s pharse). One need only consider the case of Pascal--or Job. It is far from evident that the God of the Bible demands or rewards "blind faith," faith that is closed to rational questioning, and to doubt (see on this Leo Strauss’s intellectual biography, "The Preface to the English Edition of Spinoza’s Critique of Religion."

2) "Moral certainty" is an inner experience. Contrary to K., many people did not feel moral certainty after 9/11 but perplexity, fear, and disorientation. The real question for liberal democracies is how the experience of "moral certainty" that some have can be a basis for public discourse with others who have not had that experience. One answer to this in contemporary liberalism is Rawl’s discipline of public reason. In my view this goes too far in excluding, indeed censoring, views and expressed experiences just because they are not immediately shared by others who have different creeds or views of the good. But the concern is real that if you have a public world composed of diverse individuals and groups each with their own idiosyncratic experiences of moral certainty, then public life will simply be not tractable to the requirements of deliberation, both in law and in politics. Differences being not tractable through deliberation, which requires SOME kind of shared vocabulary between believers and un-believers and indeed OTHER-believers, the result will be crude majoritarianism, or worse.

3) For more reflections on religion and liberal democratic constitutionalism see my review of Weiler’s "Christian Europe," a book advocating that God be brought into the European constitution (true, right now even God couldn’t possibly save that document!). Here is the link.


Rob Howse

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