Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's not just leftists who can be lazy

Here's an interesting post from Mark Steyn relating to the ridiculous habit of some on the left end of the political spectrum to dismiss Limbaugh, Coulter, et. al. as not really taking seriously what they say.

The assumption of bad faith is the first refuge of the lazy leftist: "Why, my position is so obviously the only rational one that yours can only be an act! You cannot possibly believe what you say about climate change/health care/Islamic terrorism! Clearly it can only be explained by the check from your puppetmaster!"

But it's not just the lazy leftist; as we've seen before, lazy anti-Catholics can resort to the same nonsense. "If they were honest, they'd come to the same conclusions as I do!" Uhh...sure.

But it's not just lazy leftists or lazy anti-Catholics, either. It's just plain intellectual laziness. It's much easier to dismiss those who disagree with such ad hominem nonsense than to actually consider why it might be that they have different views than I do. And I mean that first person pronoun. I have done this too. Let's be honest, folks: we don't know why the other man believes what he does. We don't know his heart. Heck, we don't even know our own hearts very well, and we have 24/7 access to them! How foolish then it is for me to pretend that I know another man's heart (and consequently why he believes what he does).

Let's cut the other guy some slack and presume that he's actually acting in good faith, even if we don't understand it. That doesn't mean he's right; it just means treating him with charity. It means applying the golden rule. The Pontificator was completely right with these rules.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not sure what your point was in this. Is it that James Swan and Turrentinfan and required required to be treated charitably or what? i'm being serious i'm perhaps slow to learn but i didn't understand the point of your post.

-Tap

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hello Tap,

Thank you for stopping by. The post wasn't written with anyone in particular in view as the object of charity. The point of the post is that we need to follow the Golden Rule with respect to those with whom we disagree.

I would not want TF or Swan (to use the two you have mentioned) to presume that I act in bad faith. I have an obligation, under the Golden Rule, to grant them (and everyone else, for that matter) the same presumption that they are acting in good faith. Yes, this means treating those with whom we disagree charitably.

Does that help?

Peace,

RdP

Anonymous said...

That helps i suppose. I didn't understand whether not you were objecting to calling them Lazy or not. But i guess, your point remains. But given how "not dumb" these guys appear to be, it hard not to come to the conclusion that that they are either being Lazy or purposefully distorting the teaching of Church Fathers,<-- is that being uncharitable?

-Tap

Reginald de Piperno said...

Well, being charitable doesn't necessarily rule out being critical when that is wise. In this case, I included myself in the criticism, so hopefully it's obvious that I'm not trying to single anyone out :-)

I would say, with respect to the examples you give: because we do not know their hearts (we don't even know TF's real name; how much less his heart?), it's uncharitable (apart from an explicit statement from them to the contrary) to infer bad faith on their part.

Strange things happen without anyone being dumb or malicious: with the best of intents, one could hastily read a source and miss something, for example. Carelessness is not necessarily malicious (and normally it isn't), and sometimes we make mistakes no matter how careful we are. Often people are just wrong, no matter how diligently they try to be right.

This is the reason, I think (or at least part of it), why St. Thomas says that it is hard to acquire knowledge. We can try very very hard, and still get things wrong.

Finally - coming the the first thing last - what I meant to call "lazy" was the habit of dismissing one's adversary as either incompetent or malevolent. I say that it's lazy because it leaves no room for the more charitable supposition that the other person has done his best, and is simply mistaken.

Peace,

RdP