Meditations on the Politics of Limited Knowledge

Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Taking Ownership of Our Democracy – 2020 and Beyond

In Current Events, Economics, Political Theory, Politics on June 13, 2019 at 2:41 pm

Looking out at the Democratic primary field for the 2020 presidential election, I am hopeful for what may come out of debate over the most urgent, rational, achievable policies and the most viable means of saving the democratic project and advancing it into the future. I lay out some thoughts here on what I would like to see prioritized by a Democratic president elected in 2020.

While I am happy to see leftward movement in the party, I believe we need to think seriously about an agenda that is more socialist than even leftist social democrats by tackling distribution of wealth and ownership, and at the same time less statist by centralizing decision-making power only to the extent necessary for each challenge we face.

Bernie powerfully lays out the stakes in recent speech on his vision of “democratic socialism” as an extension of the unfinished work of FDR’s New Deal. Worth watching and keeping in mind throughout primary.

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On Piety Part 1 of 2

In Epistemology & Theory of Knowledge, Philosophy, Religion, Theology & Metaphysics on July 19, 2010 at 2:29 pm

This is a blog called “Humble Piety.” So what does “piety” mean anyway? In sketching out the range of some of the meanings that have attached and can attach to this term, we might gain better understanding of the project here. Following on this historical/etymological/theoretical overture, I will, in subsequent posts, lay out a notion of democratic piety and pursue more concrete investigations into creative expression of piety such as in wedding ceremonies I have recently had the pleasure to witness.

The word piety likely brings to mind religious images: pious acts of devotion to a religious faith. This was certainly in mind when I semi-ironically appropriated the term for a blog which is a project of devotion without necessarily being devoted to a project – at least not a fixed, predetermined project. I sought to devote myself to understanding with greater nuance the challenge of acting on knowledge that is inherently limited and of committing oneself to action without a free-standing criterion to validate one’s ends. Under the watch cry of “epistemic humility,” my hope was and is to articulate values that can serve a better democratic future by leaving behind their theistic analogues. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic?

In Current Events, Epistemology & Theory of Knowledge, Science on June 25, 2010 at 3:20 pm

So I’m sitting at dinner and my host decides to spark conversation with a blanket denial of global warming. Needless to say, this is not a conversation that I am used to having. Then again, it is not every evening that I am sitting across the table from an extremely wealthy, elderly, intelligent, conservative libertarian bachelor with a flair for provocation and not-entirely-pleasant self-confidence. Maybe he was worked up from our squash games at the Union Club – the second-oldest private club in the United States – where he had to buy me a set of “whites” to wear before I could go on the squash court (my plebeian pink polo was not up to code). This fellow is an interesting character: heir to wealthy Southern Jewish investment bankers whose fortune stretches back to share cropping and Reconstruction, practicing lawyer whose clients have included post-Soviet oligopolies, and confidant of conservative power players and GOP leadership. His worldview rationalizes his social status: he unapologetically parks his beliefs at his own station.

While I had rather enjoyed our prior meeting and the hours of arguing about core political principles and ideological frames for analyzing policy that ensued over a dinner of coq au vin followed by cigars and cognac back at his Upper East Side bachelor pad (complete with burgundy-walled den with built-in hard-wood bookcases, studded-leather couch, chaise and bar), his challenge to climate orthodoxy made me cringe, roll my eyes and squirm in my seat a bit. I just didn’t know if I had the patience for such dialogue between bites of otherwise-delicious saag paneer. And frankly I immediately doubted the rationality of my interlocutor. He had seemed a learned man with a strident ideology with which I disagree. With one (pseudo)scientific conjecture he became a dogmatic anti-realist nut-job fundamentalist.  Read the rest of this entry »

Embrace of God: Religion and State in Hobbes and Locke

In Political Theory on February 10, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Unlike Locke, Hobbes seeks to embrace religion. But it is a deadly embrace! [*] Locke advocates the separation of church and state that has become engrained in our conception of a secular republic: “I esteem it above all things necessary to distinguish exactly the business of civil government from that of religion, and to settle the just bounds that lie between the one and the other.” [1] However, there is no room for such separation in Hobbesian political theory: “Temporal and spiritual government, are but two words, brought into the world, to make men see double, and mistake their lawful sovereign.” [2] Read the rest of this entry »