Mormon Inquiry

Mormon Inquiry


Doctrine and politics

posted by Dave Banack

Here’s a short quote from Richard Rorty’s essay “Truth without Correspondence to Reality” for those who feel there is a tight link between politics and doctrine. Rorty uses the term “philosophy,” but I think the same argument holds true for philosophy, theology, or doctrine.

It is unfortunate, I think, that many people hope for a tighter link between philosophy and politics than there is or can be. In particular, people on the left keep hoping for a philosophical view which cannot be used by the political right, one which will lend itself only to good causes. But there never will be such a view; any philosophical view is a tool which can be used by many different hands.



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Nate W.

posted January 4, 2009 at 6:26 pm


Rorty is absolutely right. I feel that contained in this paragraph is a refutation of Kant. Kant posited that there is no philosophy, no theology, and no belief that cannot be used to perpetuate violence on others, except one: goodwill. The problem, however, with Kant’s belief in goodwill is that chauvinism and other barriers to understanding will turn even the most well-intentioned acts into violence against the other. History is lettered with examples of imperial expansion in the name of spreading civilization, saving the heathen, liberating the oppressed, etc. Without wisdom, even the elect can be led astray.



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Clark

posted January 4, 2009 at 9:21 pm


I don’t think this is correct. To say philosophy is merely a tool (i.e sophistry) is just plain wrong I think. Now in ethics in terms of giving prescriptive rules for behavior philosophy is pretty useless (IMO) but it can help people think about when they are being consistent and the hidden assumptions of our theories.



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Your Name

posted January 5, 2009 at 12:44 am


I think Rorty is half right here. The idea that philosophy is politically (or morally, or religiously) neutral is an abhorrent relativism. However, there is certainly enough in common among all reasonable political (or moral or religious) positions that one can hardly expect to maintain a monopoly on principle, nor should one want to.



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Mark D.

posted January 5, 2009 at 12:47 am


That was me. It apparently lost my name when the captcha was refreshed.



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Wallace King

posted January 5, 2009 at 2:42 pm


You are invited to visit my website, and explore what is on one Mormon’s mind.
web.me.com/wallaceking



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