September 18, 2010

"Nothing more solid than social consensus"

Charlene picked this quote out of the Pope's address at Westminster Hall to civil authorities....

If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident – herein lies the real challenge for democracy.
This is true quite apart from any religious issues. It is true like gravity is true. Like the Second Law of Thermodynamics is true. This is the same problem I covered, much less eloquently, as the problem of inertial navigation.

It's the same problem that occurs if , say, you try to guide your life according to what makes you happy. How do you define happiness? How do you differentiate between short-term happiness, and long-term happiness (which might require doing things that make you very miserable in the short-term)?

To guide your life by any standard where you define yourself, from inside yourself, is like being the lab rat in an experimental maze, and at the same time, being the one who runs the experiment. It's a trap.

When a society guides itself by "social consensus," that's exactly the same trap.

Posted by John Weidner at September 18, 2010 7:50 AM
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