Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Do we take our discourse lessons from Home Simpson?

Crisis Magazine has an article by James Kalb: "A Catholic Response to the Denial of Rational Public Discourse."  The title alone caught my attention because I've lamented the fact that classical education in things like philosophy which teaches how to reason and think, and rhetoric,  have been absent.  From that void, people have taken their lessons from Homer Simpson.  What would St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas think about the way we talk all these centuries later, with less civility and smarts.  Catholic com-boxes resemble a night at the fights; some online evangelization efforts are nothing more than Catholic tabloidism.   That is not necessarily what this article is about, but it sure comes to my mind just reading the title.

I have not read this in full yet, but here is the beginning.

To follow the news today is to get the impression that public life, in the sense of rational discussion oriented toward some reasonable understanding of the common good, has come to an end. Everyone notices the partisanship, the bad faith, the indifference to truth, and the substitution of entertainment for hard news. Catholics in particular notice the disappearance of natural law reasoning, even in the informal everyday form that had always upheld principles such as the natural family and the protection of unborn children. 
The dominant view seems to be that things mean whatever those with position and power can get people to accept, and claims to the contrary are rhetorical attempts to put something over on people. Such views are held not only by cynics, flacks, and operatives, but by many who hold positions of intellectual authority. 
In some respects the disappearance of rational public life is not surprising,... [continue reading at Crisis]

*From the article: The image above entitled “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” was painted by Briton Riviere in 1872.

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