Room with a View: canceling and invalidating reasons in a democracy

Read this through carefully. It is excerpted from Why We Argue (And How We Should) by Aikin and Talisse. I think in our nation’s current stew of disagreement, it leaves open huge holes in democratic governance.

Public arguers must not only try to discern what the best reasons say they, as individuals, should believe; they must also consider what the best reasons recommend for us, the democratic polity.

And this introduces complications.

Often what our own best reasons say we, as individuals, should believe differs from what the best reasons for us recommend.

This is because certain reasons might apply to us as individuals that do not apply to us as members of a democratic citizenry.

The most obvious example of this phenomenon arises in the case of citizens who are also religious believers.

To be a member of a religion is in large part to recognize certain kinds of reasons as salient or even decisive.

Consider an obvious example.

For certain denominations of Christinaity, that the Bible forbids action X is a conclusive reason to refrain from Xing.

Accordingly, individuals who belong to the relevant Christian sect must adopt a policy of refraining from doing X.

The complication emerges once one realizes that not all of one’s fellow citizens are members of that Christian sect, and thus the fact that the Bible forbids action X cannot act as a reason for them to refrain from Xing.

Indeed, for many citizens in a modern democratic society, what the Bible says is irrelevant to questions about personal morality and public polity.

And democratic citizens need to recognize this fact.

If democracy is about collective self-government and collectively reasoning, the reasons should be accessible and acceptable to those who are party to the decisions.

(Line breaks have been added to make it easier to read.)

First, this allows any group (or privileged individual) to CANCEL the validity of another group’s reasoning simply by not accepting them. AB 5, redefining the relationship between an employer and an independent contractor, comes to mind. The judge in the Dynamex case, which led to AB 5, simply erased the history of employment and substituted his own. California State lawmakers cheerfully went along.

Second, this fails to address the larger polity forcing a smaller polity to do X because the larger polity does not recognize the validity of reasons given for refraining from doing X. Forcing Catholic sisters to pay for health insurance that offers birth control and abortion comes to mind.

In both cases, reasons are brushed aside and those on the losing end feel they are neither recognized nor listened to.

That leads to resentment and bitterness, rebellion or flight.