Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Source of Totalizing Logic

Those familiar with my thinking know that I'm kind of obsessed with conceptual isomorphism between the religious right and marxian theory (somehow I even managed to convince a law school prof that I should be allowed to write a term paper on religious right homeschooling and its similarity to marxism); in other words, I'm fascinated by the way some of the thought of the religious right mirrors certain strains of marx-influenced theory.

Over at Pandagon, Ezra has an interesting post on the rationality of the Christian right. Here's the excerpt that piqued my interest:

And, unfortunately, if they say God created this book and its authority supersedes terrestrial considerations, appeals to minority protection and laissez-faire morality won't do the job.

Of course, we all have moral beliefs that trump other's interests. As the prescriptivists maintain (among whom I count myself, along with such luminaries as R.M. Hare), the central thing about morality is that it be universalizable. As Bernard Williams pointed out in his seminal Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, that's the thing that renders moral relativism fundamentally incoherent. Yet I can think that, say, sexism is wrong without feeling the need to make expressions of sexism illegal. I'll continue to think that no one should be sexist, and no one should express it even if they were sexist, but I don't think that expressions of sexism that don't harm another or their property should be illegal.

Therein lies the difference between me and the Religious Right. They seem to have an Althusserian and deterministic notion of subject-construction. The quick caricature version of Althusser is that he contended that once a subject is constructed, that subject is more-or-less condemned to think within the terms provided by the society into which it's been inserted (this is the "interpellation" of the subject in Althusser-speak).

This seems to me to be the source of the zealousness of the Religious Right's opposition to gays. Their concern is that, once a subject is interpellated within a particular way of thinking about problems, it takes something akin to Exodus International-style "deprogramming" to change their beliefs.

This, like Marxism and its offshoots (like post-modernism), flies in the face of the Enlightenment contention that reason is a source of working through issues. Once you accept the argument that beliefs are profoundly arational, the role of rationality is marginalized; it just isn't adequate to the task. In a way, though, this may be Christianity returning to its Tertullian roots of the arational and transformative power of the blood of the lamb or something.

My suspicion is that this is latently or intuitively understood by the Religous Right ("the Comrades", as they shall forthwith be called), but rarely articulated by them and even more rarely understood by those of us in the Reality-Based Community.