Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mark reminds us

... why we started the Coalition for Clarity in the first place.

Obedience, Orthodoxy, and Torture


  1. Having read the Mark Shea piece in question, plus the 60+ comments in response, I must say that the main thing I am reminded of is how the debate among Catholics over the appropriate treatment of terrorists/suspected terrorists appears to have reached an impasse. It seems that the same arguments are being made again and again and not convincing others.

    Something is needed to break the impasse; I wonder whether a different approach to the question is needed. If each side could pinpoint precisely which part of the other side's arguments are not persuasive, we could, at the very least, focus on those.

    I would propose a future topic for the Coalition blog. We have already had posts where those opposed to the Coalition's position have been invited to put forward their best arguments for their view. Now, let's try something else: posters state, in as charitable and fair-minded a way as possible, what they perceive the other side's argument to be; then, they explain which part of the opposing argument they find unconvincing.

    This might a) clear up misunderstandings about what the other side actually thinks and b) allow us to zero in on the real sticking points rather than arguing over points we agree on or are simply tangential to the issue.

    I do not mean to hijack this post from Robert, or the blog in general, but reading this latest from Mark Shea makes me think it is time to try a different tack.

  2. John - you're not hijacking anything. This blog is intended to be a conversation, so I'm glad to hear your suggestion.

    I'll try to put together my own thoughts on how to describe the opposing argument, and post them in a couple days. Meanwhile, you might look at the yeoman's work that Zippy did on this topic a while back.

    My fear is that those who have not yet been convinced by argument will not be convinced in the future by argument. Most of the time, it is an experience rather than logic that opens a closed mind.

    That said, it never hurts to try.

  3. Robert,

    Thanks very much for being open to this suggestion. I agree that Zippy's catalog of arguments is helpful; many of the points made in the blogosphere on this topic, including on this blog, have been helpful. Nevertheless, quite a lot of people seem not to have been persuaded. I agree with you that arguments are not as effective as experiences in changing people's minds. Nevertheless, if people seem not to be hearing an argument, or hear it but are not persuaded, then I think we all (whatever our position) need to find new ways of reaching the other side. I feel this way even more strongly now that the comments on Mark Shea's essay are nearing 200 and the various participants seem to be talking past each other in a truly depressing way. I look forward to your future posting on this topic. Thanks again.