A NONFICTION BOOK BY O.G. ROSE
Belonging Again (Part 10)
Can internal conflicts only be stopped by controlling “the reality industry?”
How do we stop internal conflicts? There’s no single answer, but even though liberal science inevitably leads to tension with the doctrine of tolerance (even if tolerance purports to be a major proponent of liberal science), Jonathan Rauch wrote that liberal science was invaluable for internal tensions to be mitigated (and do note that if we’re going to practice humility, there will be meaningful differences between people that will require management). ‘How to manage conflict of belief [was], [Rauch] submit[ed], a problem that every society must somehow solve.’¹ Rauch noted that Plato in The Republic argued for holding society together by controlling ‘the reality industry,’ which Rauch noted was what an authoritarian regime attempted to accomplish.² Plato advocated controlling the thought of the general public and was deeply skeptical of democracy; for Rauch, Plato depicted a nightmarish world. The answer isn’t a concentration of power, but a system where no power is overly-concentrated and that millions if not billions of small decisions, arguments, debates, etc. can occur daily, making abundant room for errors, since it is by error that knowledge is advanced (Rauch agrees it’s important that we overcome the illusion that truth is found by “genius” more so than “trial and error”). What Rauch wants is for knowledge creation to result from factions, in the form of free individuals, not a central planner that controls education, ideology, and the like.
Aren’t factions and divided communities precisely what caused bigotry, discrimination, and violence? Doesn’t the State help increase unity? It’s important to note that Rauch isn’t advocating a world in which everyone has an “equal seat at the table,” per se: Rauch doesn’t think universities must teach classes on both Holocaust believers and Holocaust deniers, Flat Earthers and Round Earthers, etc. Universities should only teach views that ‘stand up after prolonged exposure to withering public testing.’³ For Rauch, views that fail the tests of liberal science fail to “do” what is necessarily to earn “a seat at the table.” Those views may in fact be “true beliefs,” but they fail the tests necessary to be ‘recognized as knowledge,’ and Universities must commit to only teaching what has passed the tests of liberal science; otherwise, it’s chaos.⁴ Considering this, ‘liberal science does not restrict belief, but it does restrict knowledge,’ and to Rauch, we are all better for it.⁵ For peace, knowledge-advancement, and democracy, what we need is only an ‘agreement on the rules’ of liberal science, ‘a mutual undertaking to check and be checked.’⁶ If we all agree that what is knowledge is that which ‘the experience of no one in particular’ would have entailed had he or she been in the lab instead of the scientist — that knowledge is that which ‘anyone [would] have seen,’ because ‘particular persons are interchangeable’ — we would be much better off.⁷ ⁸ ⁹
Liberal science does iron out bigotry, racism, and discrimination, precisely because bigotry, racism, and discrimination don’t ‘stand up after prolonged exposure to withering public testing.’¹⁰ But unlike how the State irons out these “demons of human nature,” liberal science doesn’t use force, threat, or power (which may beget revolution, resentment, or social backlash); rather, liberal science uses debate through which it internally transforms the hearts of people. They don’t cease being racists because they’re scared of the State, for example, but rather cease because they are convinced racism is wrong. This leads to genuine reconciliation, while State forces can incubate existential anxiety (as discussed in “Equality and Its Immoral Limits” by O.G. Rose). Through liberal science though, do “the demons of human nature” last a second longer than they should? Surely, if they exist for a moment, this is the case. Couldn’t the State wipe them out quicker? This is where the temptation to appeal to the State comes in and why toleration backed by the State can be more appealing than democratic debate — arguably, justice demands that State action be more appealing, in fact. Perhaps State growth against injustice is sometimes the right course of action, but as hopefully this paper has made clear (and others by O.G. Rose), there are always trade-offs, some of which may ironically worsen the very discrimination State growth hopes to efface.
Does Rauch place too much faith in liberal science? Wasn’t science once a major proponent of eugenics? Indeed, but science isn’t now, and there were also States that assented to eugenics. Hopefully neither commit such trespasses now, but we can never be too sure. Liberal science and States both bear their sins, but at least liberal science doesn’t concentrate power in such a way (unto itself) that when those sins are committed, the consequences are potentially Holocaust-in-scale (personally, I find it impossible to imagine a “1984-like world” that results from liberal science without liberal science being in bed with the State). Furthermore, liberal science is a way to unify ever-diverse communities of Pluralism without necessarily forcing them to abandon their beliefs (and also leaves forever open the possibility of reexamination for anyone to challenge supposed “knowledge” anytime). Yes, liberal science will not allow a community to present its beliefs as “true knowledge” if those belief fail to be tested, but it will enable communities to test their beliefs whenever they like, and more importantly, will not force them to abandon those (perhaps true) beliefs (though that isn’t to say liberal science won’t contribute to people choosing to abandon their beliefs on their own). And yes, liberal science will in a way privilege beliefs as knowledge that pass the tests of liberal science, but these beliefs do in fact deserve special standing, as does liberal science in general. Rauch wrote:
‘Belief in liberal science is a faith, but it does deserve special standing: not only because it is the best social regime for mobilizing resources to produce knowledge, but also because it is inherently anti-authoritarian.’¹¹
No, Rauch did not mean to suggest that knowledge is necessarily truer than a given belief; for Rauch, echoing the arguments of Karl Popper, we can never determine this, for we can never be God. For a society or State to deny the beliefs of a community as “necessarily false” — whether in the name of tolerance, equality, or what have you — is for the State to act like God — to act like it knows which beliefs aren’t true or to privilege knowledge as “more true” than a given belief, which isn’t necessarily the case — and this extraordinary arrogance will not be lost on these (undoubtedly resentful) communities. Especially if “the map is indestructible” (as discussed in “The True Isn’t the Rational” by O.G. Rose), there will likely be room in the philosophies or theologies of these communities to view State action as wrong (for otherwise, it is doubtful they would believe that which the State denied). Tension will mount as these communities then have to choose between their beliefs and accepting the dogma of the State, which will threaten to undermine their authority and (meaningful) “hold” on their members. Is this always bad? No, but if it is possible to end bigotry through liberal science versus State action, I believe the first is highly preferable. We shouldn’t worsen the tensions of our Pluralistic Age any more than we must. But how do we determine when we “have to” (and surely what I’m claiming is easy for the privileged to admonish)? The answer depends on the situation, but regardless the circumstance, State action shouldn’t be our default, yet in an age that increasingly views the State as the “most real” association (as Conyers argued), I believe this is increasingly becoming the case. If we take justice seriously, it’s only rational.
But as has been said countless times before, if State growth lowers the probability of “the banality of evil” happening again, isn’t the internal tensions and risks worth it? This question seems to be the inquiry that’s orbit this paper cannot escape. Again, though I agree “the banality of evil” is less likely under a large State, I’m not convinced internal tensions won’t lead to the unfolding of that horror. If at all possible, I would like to find a way to stop both “the banality of evil,” internal tensions, and maintain the possibility of character — of Bonhoeffer without Hitler — but I’m not sure this ideal situation is possible. After all, liberal science maintains factions that can entail a particularity and exclusivity that makes Arendt’s nightmare possible, even though liberal science can stop it.
That acknowledged, I do think it would be erroneous to ignore how much liberal science has helped diverse societies live together peacefully, and we have Jonathan Rauch to thank for bringing that to our attention. Liberals science brings about the practice of tolerance without the dogma: it tolerates all beliefs and gives them all equal access to tests that would transform the beliefs into knowledge. There is equality of opportunity and acknowledgment that all beliefs have equal potential to be true, but there is still a mechanism of sorting through beliefs to determine which are knowledge, and hence which ideas we can follow to “reliably” structure our society in such a way that doesn’t crowd out communities that are founded on beliefs that cannot be falsified but may nevertheless be true.
Liberal science provides structure while simultaneously making room for diversity.¹² It also results in the humility Conyers supported: a collective “bowing before truth” that in the act of bowing, creates unity. Even those who don’t like the results of liberal science cannot easily deny they have been treated fairly and simply failed to pass the test: they may not like practicing humility, and they may even refuse, but they will not be able to claim they were censored. As it is important that the economy provides everyone with a sense of equal opportunity to maintain legitimacy, so it is important for social legitimacy that everyone feel their beliefs were provided an equal opportunity to become knowledge.
Existentially speaking, there is a dramatic difference between feeling censored and feeling disappointed, and though there will be internal and social griping, there will be much less existential anxiety and even less chance of that anxiety spreading. Yes, I may not like my Creationism being unable to graduate from belief into knowledge, but I cannot deny that at any time I could test Creationism just like Evolution. If Creationism fails, that is the fault of the theory itself, not a State forcing me to be an Evolutionist (though that isn’t to say liberal science and the State won’t perhaps pressure me to abandon Creationism). This will likely upset me, but thanks to liberal science, I am much less likely to take out this anger on my State or Evolutionist neighbor. Most will be more at peace with their belief being denied by liberal science than they will with their beliefs being forced away by the State.
Liberal science results practically in a tolerance that Conyers would have supported, for it is not a tolerance that is ‘a clever new disguise for persecution and a new language for social conformity.’¹³ Conyers wrote:
‘The important thing is to make appropriate distinctions. There is a tolerance that serves the interest of power, economic and political power […] And there is also a tolerance that serves the interest of knowledge — not knowledge in the Baconian sense of knowledge-as-power but in the Augustine sense of knowledge in order to love. It serves the interest of knowledge because our knowledge is partial, it is imperfect and plagued by our imperfections. It is an expression of the virtue of humility.’¹⁴
For Conyers, unlike tolerance, humility ‘promotes not a unity that is assumed and goes unquestioned at the beginning but one that is found at some cost to those who search.’¹⁵ Indeed, as Rauch noted, liberal science does cost those who put their beliefs upon its altar: they suffer existential anxiety as their beliefs are examined and upended, often have their worldviews smashed, suffer ridicule, and may ultimately have to end up living in the tension of knowing that though their beliefs might be true, at least presently, they are not knowledge. Unfortunately, all too often, because they believe their views are matters of justice, God’s Will, tolerance, etc., people not only avoid checking and balancing themselves with liberal science, but after assuming their beliefs are concrete knowledge without risk, like inquisitors, people proceed to judge other people not only as wrong but in need of silencing. For Rauch, this impoverishes our entire society and hinders are capacities to know truth: in this situation, everyone loses.
¹Rauch, Jonathan. Kindly Inquisitors. The University of Chicago Press. Paperback Edition, 1994: 38.
²Rauch, Jonathan. Kindly Inquisitors. The University of Chicago Press. Paperback Edition, 1994: 38.
³Rauch, Jonathan. Kindly Inquisitors. The University of Chicago Press. Paperback Edition, 1994: 118.
⁴Rauch, Jonathan. Kindly Inquisitors. The University of Chicago Press. Paperback Edition, 1994: 116.
⁵Rauch, Jonathan. Kindly Inquisitors. The University of Chicago Press. Paperback Edition, 1994: 116.
⁶Rauch, Jonathan. Kindly Inquisitors. The University of Chicago Press. Paperback Edition, 1994: 85.
⁷Rauch, Jonathan. Kindly Inquisitors. The University of Chicago Press. Paperback Edition, 1994: 52.
⁸Rauch, Jonathan. Kindly Inquisitors. The University of Chicago Press. Paperback Edition, 1994: 53.
⁹Rauch, Jonathan. Kindly Inquisitors. The University of Chicago Press. Paperback Edition, 1994: 53.
¹⁰Rauch, Jonathan. Kindly Inquisitors. The University of Chicago Press. Paperback Edition, 1994: 118.
¹¹Rauch, Jonathan. Kindly Inquisitors. The University of Chicago Press. Paperback Edition, 1994: 77.
¹²The same can be said in my opinion about the faction-based political structure James Madison created, as evident in The Federalist Papers: it seems to me that liberal science and the American system of governance belong together.
¹³Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 168.
¹⁴Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 242.
¹⁵Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 233.