Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Posner on Religious Rationale for Public Policy:

I’m glad to see Richard Posner, one of the most interesting and brilliant legal thinkers, guest blogging on Leiter Reports. However, is it me or is Posner’s first post about faith based morality and public policy nearly identical to what Eugene Volokh wrote a few weeks ago?

The bottom line of both posts, it seems to me, is that it’s unfair to exclude support for public policy positions that derive solely from one’s religious faith from the public square, and demand some kind of secular “reason” for all underlying policy positions because all moral sentiments ultimately rest upon some unprovable moral assumptions. In other words, unaided reason cannot establish universal notions of morality (any more than religious faith can).

But interestingly, Posner and Volokh are non-religious. So they don’t believe in the ultimate Truth of religious teachings either. So ultimately we are left with no objective grounds for moral judgments. That, it seems to me, is postmodernism-nihilism.

But it’s interesting how postmodernist assumptions lead to a defense of religious conservatism in the public square.

This might surprise us because we associate postmodernism with Leftist-Deconstructionists, ala Foucault. But if the true father of postmodernism is Nietzsche—from what I understand about him, even though he loathed Christianity (for its softness and egalitarianism), he was the antithesis of an antireligious person (he thundered “God is dead” on a note of lament, not celebration). And the historical religion that Nietzsche lauded (not Zoroastrianism which was his foil) was Old Testament style Judaism.

So I guess it shouldn’t surprise us that postmodernist-nihilist assumptions could be used to defend religious conservatives and their views having a fair shot in the public square.

I suppose the problem with postmodernism that sees objective morality as an illusion is that we are left with, as Posner notes, the “practical consequence that morality is simply dominant public opinion.” So what do we do when the masses support genocide or slavery?

For more on this, see my posts here and here.

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