Friday, February 04, 2005

That there is a God and That He Does Not Deceive: What Makes One a Democrat or a Republican

When Descartes set out to find his Archimedean point for knowledge, that is, since there was no reason to believe anything as true on first blush, he needed to find a single fact that he could hold as true and build on that fact to the truth of things. For him, he found it in the Augustinian logic, "Even if I doubt myself, it is I that doubts" therefore, "cogito ergo sum," "I think therefore I am."

For Descartes there was another major issue, his proof that he existed trapped him in a solipsistic absurd monadic state and he needed to get out of it and confirm the existence of the world and the veracity of knowledge. For him it all depended on two things 1) that there is a God 2) and that God does not deceive. Of course, this part of Descartes' argument has been ripped to shreds by many. But I really believe that he was on to something.

This provides context for the creationist's issues. One such issue is the claim that God created the world not too long ago in 144 hours and then aged it to seem like it is billions of years old. Now, there are serious ramifications if this is the case. If God has smudged the truth in nature and deceived us, then that means our science and pursuit of knowledge is all wrong. That means that we actually cannot be certain of truth at all. We can't even then be sure that we are what we think we are, it all becomes the matrix, misguided perceptions.

The fact is that we all instinctively trust that God or the overarching power that exists has not deceived us and that we can indeed search for truth. I think that Descartes was right. Our collective quest for truth is based on trust and trust of a divine order that we know will not fail. It is because we know that a truth ascertained will remain such that we can build on this and move forward.

Trust is the key to society and in fact I've come to see that it defines political groups these days. Democrats are not liberals. Liberals are approximately 45-55% of the Democratic Party, so then what is it that binds conservative, moderate and liberal Democrats?

Democrats believe three basic things 1) that human beings are good 2) community is an essential part of what it is to be human and 3) the government is has a role to play in ensuring that the goodness and dignity of individuals and communities are never violated.

Republicans have a more Calvinistic and Hobbsian view of humans, that 1) humans in the state of nature are not to be trusted but are depraved and motivated solely by self interest 2) we are individuals and only come together through some sort of social contract for the sake of self interest 3) a hierarchy of human clusters of groups is acceptable in society. In this scenario CEOs are worth more to society because they produce the jobs for the people below them. In the Democratic view, one's contribution to society is seen more as one's tasks and it is not self defining, at the end of the day, we are all still a human community albeit with different gifts.

This is why partisanship is important. The parties don't simply represent arbitrary groups, but differing philosophies. Also, it is important to note that it is not a liberal v conservative divide, A conservative Democrat can believe in smaller government, not because he doesn't believe in the supportive and ubiquitous role of government, but because he feels it can be more efficient. Nonetheless, conservative though he is, he understands that humans are good and just want to live a good life with their families. Republicans tend to be far more suspicious of human nature and the human ability to do good. Good is seen as something that must be imposed, even legislated.

A simplistic analysis, but I think in the ball park.


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