Monday, June 20, 2011

Can't We All Be FRIENDS in Gay Marriage Debate and Other Matters

Yesterday I saw on twitter a Episcopal Minister (Priestess) talk about how opposition to gay non celibate Bishops was just homphobic and hateful. Well that is disappointing and by disappointing I mean her way of argument. However I think it shows a much larger problem we have on issues and groups that have nothing to do with gay marriage. What does this have to do with Friendship? Well read on ( or go to the last paragraph if you must but read the whole thing)

There is an excellent piece at Public Discourse called Offense and Criticism in the Marriage Debates. It really has little to do with the gay marriage debate itself but uses it as a jumping off point.

At issue is as they say it " odd it is for one group to fiat the end of debate by declaring a particular set of arguments unworthy of consideration; or, more peculiarly, by declaring that these arguments may not be considered without thereby revealing one’s own status as bigoted, hateful, and offensive..."

That of course goes beyond gay marriage. As the article states:

"For many contemporaries, he writes, “an enlightened global politics” requires “treating all other people with equal respect and, second, trying to avoid words or deeds which threaten to compound existing disadvantages.” Given their historically disadvantaged and ostracized position, Collini reports, it is thought that some “social groups … have an equal right to hold or express their convictions without being ‘dissed’ by anyone else.” In other words, to argue against a historically disadvantaged group is apparently to commit an intrinsically hateful, bigoted, and offensive act.."

A good discussion is had about this concept but this part caught my eye:

...........On the other hand, Collini is correct that taking offense should “be regarded as initiating a reasoned argument rather than foreclosing on one.” In fact, if offense is a demand for equal respect, then argument should follow on offense, “for how does respect exist except in the company of critical judgment?” To pretend that those who are mistaken are either correct or are “too fragile or too touchy or too stupid to bear reasoned disagreement is to condescend to them … is precisely not to treat them as equal adults.”

Collini’s defense of criticism rejects the primacy of identity politics with its “defining error” of acting “as though one characteristic over-rides all others, thereby homogenizing those who possess it and imposing a binary separation from those who do not.” It is not membership in particular communities based on race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation that matters most, for the “most important identity we can acknowledge in another person is the identity of being an intelligent reflective human being.” All persons are “potentially capable of understanding the grounds for any action or statement that concerns us.” Treating others as “reflective intelligent individuals not wholly reducible to being members of any one community” is not a Western or liberal standard; it is a human one. Any other standard, he claims, treats the other with condescension, as below us. Treating others with respect can require great effort, but exempting others from criticism is not respectful...........

I totally agree.

He continues:
....There is, Collini argues, a “right to be offended,” and using offense to end criticism “may not only deny the rights of the speaker—it may deny the rights of the listener as well.” Humans reveal their humanity in their ability to offer justification for their actions and beliefs, and to exempt an individual or group from the requirement to justify themselves reveals contempt, even if benignly intended.....

After going through this line of reasoning I think he really hits it home here.

Fair criticism aims at truth, at a judgment of what is the case. Offense also demonstrates a commitment to the truth, and thus both criticism and offense share a commitment to truth as an intrinsically valuable aim of human action. Both the critic and the offended party, then, seek truth as a value, and their seeking of truth demonstrates that truth is valuable for everyone like themselves, that is, for all humans. Consequently, both criticism and offense judge truth to be a human good. This judgment also claims that truth is a good for beings like oneself, and so to pursue truth through criticism is to demonstrate that one believes the other is equal to oneself and to wish a good for them—which is a kind of friendship......

Read the whole thing

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