Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Dec/08

12

Weekend Open Thread

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15 comments

  • Author comment by Nietzsche · December 12, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    I created this thread so I could say:

    Is it just me or the Secular Right sign at the top keeps getting bigger every day.

  • Author comment by David Hume · December 12, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    I cranked it up once.

  • Dave M · December 13, 2008 at 10:14 am

    I know this is somewhat OT, but this is the open thread after all:

    Gurkha hero’s widow facing deportation.

    Words cannot express how disgusted I am with the (UK) government at the moment. Roll on a general election as soon as possible.

  • Author comment by Nietzsche · December 13, 2008 at 10:41 am

    This thread = FAIL.

  • Jon Rowe · December 13, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Heh. I hesitated to plug my hobby horse on the Founding & religion on this open thread (things like what secularists might find of value in it and what they might not) because sometimes I’ve found that it bores many people. But if anyone wants to discuss that I’m always game.

    We could also discuss Christopher Hitchens errors in claiming Franklin and Jefferson as atheists (they weren’t even strict Deists!).

    The glass is half full and half empty for Godless folks and for Christian conservatives, my research has uncovered. The key Founders devoutly believed not just in God, but an active personal God (even the “Deists” Jefferson and Franklin) but they also believed man’s reason was designed by God to be penultimate. And therefore came to conclusions on things like the Trinity that were downright heretical and blasphemous and would have gotten them potentially executed in the old world (for instance in Calvin’s Geneva).

    If anyone wants to discuss, I’ve got lots of primary sources at my fingers.

  • Author comment by Nietzsche · December 13, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Before discussing the founders wouldn’t we need to discuss whether we really even are – or care for – originalism in the first place? If so, how is it defined. Does it include only certain founders, all of them, and also the founding societies, or…

  • Author comment by Nietzsche · December 13, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    just as an aside:

    i do not like wikipedia b/c now if i don’t know the answer to a question and i ask someone, rather than telling me, they tell me to wiki it.

    screw that.

    that’s like meeting a new person at a club and rather than answering their questions sending them to your facebook page.

  • Jon Rowe · December 13, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Well…I often discuss the “key” Founders [Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and some others]; because of their popularity their exact views have been researched in fairly meticulous detail. They seem to have greater “pull” than the collective of two hundred and some (most of whose views are only know in surface, as opposed to meticulous detail). In theory, one could make the case that ratifier Joe Schmo from PA’s state ratifying convention is as important as George Washington. But, the men whose faces are on the US currency, it seems to be will always be thought of as “more important.” And perhaps for good reason, they were the ones who played key roles as formulators of Founding American ideals and as politicians who put those ideas into practice.

  • Author comment by ◄Dave► · December 13, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Before discussing the founders wouldn’t we need to discuss whether we really even are – or care for – originalism in the first place?

    I can’t imagine not caring and insisting that the Constitution means exactly what the Founders intended at the time. Else, we might as well not have one; or we could just allow the Incumbrepublocrat oligarchy to assign a committee of Orwellian spinmeisters the chore of willy-nilly rewriting the law of the land every few years. I am not ready for serfdom; nor do I harbor any illusions that I could attain a privileged position on the Central Committee. I have no friends in Chicago.

    If so, how is it defined.

    As best we can… from contemporaneous writing, dictionaries, common law heritage, etc. It has got to be worth the effort; or we end up with such absurdities as have been foisted upon us, by divining almost unlimited Federal power, in the meaning of the Interstate Commerce clause. ◄Dave►

  • Author comment by Nietzsche · December 13, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Dave: you may not be able to imagine it but on what basis do you insist it. I am not trying to be antagonistic. It just seems to me that the idea of originalism – of a ‘sacred’ document that is best known to the founder or revealer – smacks of religiosity.

    At the end of the day even when we are pure originalists we are still channeling our modern and current sensibilities through the founders. I think it was Justice Hugo Black, a literalist, who said that there is no such thing as pure literalism. I think the same goes for originalism. I mean don’t we regularly dismiss the founders’ patriarchal and anti-black views? What about Voltaire. Don’t we regularly dismiss his glorious anti-semitism?

    Don’t you think originalism is a form of romanticism? This is not necessary a bad thing: I suppose you could say that some romanticism, a necessary lie, is…a convenient fiction). But if at the end of the day we agree that we have to use convenient fictions why does it have to be the originalist one?

    I realize that I sound a bit like an unhinged post-modernist trying to undermine all meaning – that is not really my intention. I am just trying to find a non-religious reason for why originalism trumps some of the other methods of interpreting the constitution i.e. judeo-christian traditionalism.

  • Author comment by Nietzsche · December 13, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Jon and Dave, and anyone else: I guess my question goes even further back.

    Does the idea of continued adherence to a particular document – a constitution – arise out of our respect for the founders or out of our continued consensus that we are going to adhere to it.

    Isn’t it the latter?

    Also the insistence that we follow the constitution b/c the founders wrote it…seems precisely like the cosmological arguments that religious people use to justify belief in their founding document.

  • Jon Rowe · December 13, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Well if we don’t follow the Constitution what are we going to follow?

    I think there’s a strong utilitarian reason to support the American Founding: It delivered religious and political liberty, democratic-republican government, and eventually led to the US being the most powerful nation on Earth.

  • Author comment by ◄Dave► · December 14, 2008 at 9:01 am

    Dave: you may not be able to imagine it but on what basis do you insist it.

    Probably the same basis that has kept me single since my divorce over thirty years ago. I refuse to ever again be so foolish as to enter into a legal contract, the terms of which can be subsequently altered at the whim of politicians. Then, through some twist of logic, I somehow remain bound and subject to onerous new penalties for breach of it, which I never agreed to.

    I get very nervous over the popular notion that the Constitution needs to be “interpreted.” It is not a collection of parables and allegory like some holy writ. It is a mutual defense and free trade compact between sovereign states; a legal document with remarkably unambiguous language, which means precisely what the men who authored it intended it to mean. Determining the pre-Orwellian meaning of the words they employed is not at all difficult, if one is not trying to impute an intent that was not there.

    A mechanism exists for changing our Constitution if necessary. If a proposed change has enough popular support, it can be ratified as an Amendment. If not, then it probably wasn’t even a good idea, much less necessary. While I am constrained to admit that the fundamental nature of our republic was changed forever in 1913, with the passage of the 16th and 17th Amendments (along with the Federal Reserve Act), these tragedies did not change the amendment process. If it can now be amended on ephemeral whim, by executive order, legislative edict, or judicial fiat, then an oath to uphold and defend it as the organic law of the land becomes meaningless.

    You appear to hold a more expansive definition of “originalism” than I do. I restrict it to the contractual document itself, and do not attach the baggage of judging the character of its authors to their work product. I revere the Constitution as a brilliant foundation for the remarkable American experiment in self-government by freemen, which brought unparalleled prosperity to a nation of individual sovereigns, living in a state of unheard of Liberty for almost one hundred years.

    That said, as to romanticism, which I do not think is a party to originalism, what reverence I might have for some of our founders (and disdain for others), comes from recognition of the quality of their minds, and the diligence they demonstrated in putting them to good use. They were a remarkable collection of revolutionaries to whom we owe much. I do chafe at the post-modern penchant for focusing on their warts and superficial blemishes, and denigrating them to our children in our public school factories, rather than allowing their accomplishments to inspire new generations to retain our heritage as freemen.

    I do not fault them for the paradigm they were born into, or judge their personal peccadilloes through the lens of our own. At the rate things are going, I have little doubt that future generations among my posterity, would look back with revulsion, at the fact that this particular ancestor owned and exploited livestock, or even owned and licensed dogs. It will be a pity if they choose to discount whatever positive effect I may have had on their existence, because of their paradigm’s “enlightened” attitude toward animal rights. ◄Dave►

  • Author comment by ◄Dave► · December 15, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Site Administrator: No need to post this, it is just a suggestion. Any chance of increasing the length of the “recent comments” widget to the full 15 allowed? When your site is busy, new comments to old threads, that some may be interested in following, can scroll off before they are noticed. Thanks for a great website. ◄Dave►

  • Author comment by David Hume · December 15, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Sir,

    I thought of it, but didn’t get around to it. Since you reminded, I did it.

    At your service,
    DH

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