pluralism and dialogue
November 8, 2015
This piece by the atlantic that i read today has a part that i find interesting to my own views:
It’s easy to jot off self-righteous prose about pluralism, the importance of dialogue and engagement with others’ beliefs. It’s much harder to figure out the first-principle questions that affect people’s lives, like whether all adoption agencies should be compelled by law to place children with gay families. (Mohler doesn’t support gay families, he said, but “at the first level, the most emergency level, we should be thankful that any child is clothed and fed.”)
Now, since I am an advocate for pluralism, I kind of feel like it behooves me to engage this particular part of the article. While most of the ways that I”ve spoken about pluralism are about intra-‘community” stuff (ie, speaking of feminism_s_ rather than _F_eminism). I haven”t spoken much about how pluralism might work on a inter-community level, as described above.
Pluralism, in this understanding, does get very close to how much of liberalism views inter-community interaction. At least as it seems above, wherein there is a sincere attempt to understand and reach some sort of compromise with those who disagree with us.
I guess, for me, the first thing is that I don”t think pluralism implies thinking that everything is of equal value. While I”m fully willing to call radical feminism, feminism (rather than trying to pretend it is a fake kind of feminism) that doesn”t mean I actually think it has the same value (esp. from a liberatory perspective) as Black feminism. And sure, what I value is entirely biased. Meh. No problems there, this will be true of everyone.
This also can”t be dealt with by other liberal principles. One of the key components to liberal human rights ideology is that when you are exercising one of your rights, you cannot violate the rights of someone else. This is the basis for many of the competing rights cases we see. And, yeah, its a principle that can cut both ways. LGBT ppl say that religious conservatives are violating their rights via exercising freedom of religion, whereas religious people say that their religious freedoms are being violated when they are compelled to follow the law (like gay marriage).
And while, sure, I don”t think one group ought to be allowed to enforce their beliefs on another, this isn”t really useful. For all that I think that many religious conservatives are just plain wrong, that doesn”t change the fact that they feel like I”m imposing my views onto them.
These are the thorny problems of living in a diverse population with competing interests. I”m also not sure that I have any real answer to any of these, since they are long-standing philosophical problems. There”s a reason that moe homogenous countries do not have this particular set of problems.
However, what I don”t think is all that important to my understanding of pluralism is being able to engage in ‘debate” or ‘discussion” with people who disagree with me. Indeed, my experience is, is that doing this is either very difficult or impossible. At the very least, its a waste of time.
Why? Because in some situations no comprimise is possible. This is generally what liberals refuse to recognize. Yes. I believe in pluralism but I also understand its limits. But there is no possible middle ground between my assertion that I”m human and, for example, the radfem assertion that I am not. I”m not about to compromise on my humanity to make peace with them. Just as they aren”t about to compromise their hate to make peace with me.
What I rarely see articulated is any actual explanations for why anyone ought to try and find these kinds of compromises. Yes. I know that they are important because they do allow for us to live in ‘peace”. But that”s only important if you think that peace is a more important value than other things. I”m not sure that I do, anymore. Especially now that my thinking is nuanced enough to understand that the opposite of ‘peace” isn”t actually war. A lack of peace between groups doesn”t necessarily mean that we have to mobilize mass campaigns of murder against other groups.
Much in the same way that I don”t go around murdering everyone I don”t like. There”s no peace between us, but there also isn”t any violence. I think there”s more room here than insisting that either we compromise to make peace or make war/violence. I”m not really sure what this looks like, but given that this is already happening everyday (ie, no peace but no violence either), I at least know that its possible. So.