Friday, August 01, 2014

Katholicism, Kripkean Dogmatism and ExKommunication

There is a prevailing wind blowing among members of society that there is no such thing as certainty, and that people who are certain about what they believe are somehow mad, bad, or dangerous to know. Philosophically, there does not seem to be much that we can be certain about. I think I'm pretty certain that doubt exists. In fact, if I'm not 100% sure that doubt exists, then I'm contradicting myself!

Religious belief is under a lot of scrutiny lately. It is, after all, the major cause of the exodus of Christians from Iraq as ISIS seeks to drive them out in the name of their religion. What is their way of thinking?

It must be along the lines of::

1) My Religion is the only true religion.
2) Other religions offer an alternative morality.
3) Alternative moralities are not true.
4) An untrue morality is immoral.
5) Alternative moralities are immoral,
6) Immorality must be extinguished from Society.
7) My Religion must extinguish other religions.

Of course, there are several hidden assumptions here. One is that the alternative moralities are incompatible with the One True Morality, another is that an untrue morality is immoral (or of dubious morality) in every moral situation. However, the one that stands out the most is the assumption that "Society must adhere to My Religion". Such an assumption can only be true if members of Society cannot or must not have the freedom to choose their religion. i.e. free-will is impossible or immoral.

Of course, one can try and reason with such fundamentalists, but their fundamentalism cuts off any reasoning because they refuse any evidence against their position. This is known in the trade as Kripkean Dogmatism. It is defined as the state in which a dogma is held to be true to the extent that evidence to the contrary is automatically rejected and all evidence to the affirmative is assimilated. Thus the dogma can only become strengthened and the viewpoint progressively more entrenched. Kripkean Dogma promotes irreconcilable polarities which can do nothing like two equally matched boxers constantly circling each other ready to strike a blow.

Kripkean Dogmatism is inherently irrational. Any dogma is founded on a particular body of evidence. If that particular body of evidence is complete, then one may rightly and justifiably hold to that dogma since there is no new evidence that can alter the decision.

If however, the body of evidence is incomplete, then the Kripkean Dogmatist is assuming the dogma to be certainly true based on the incomplete evidence that he has. So we have an absolute conclusion based upon non-absolute warrant and/or non-absolute data which leads to the acceptance only of evidence for the dogma and that produces an unsound argument. Hence, Kripkean Dogmatism is not a rational position.

Perhaps it is for this reason that the intellectual tide has been so against Religious belief. We have often heard the idea that "Religious belief is irrational" and it is based on this sense of certainty that Religious believers seem to have.

Of course,  Christianity has been guilty of using statements 1-7 to justify awful things. It is my hope that we have grown out of that, that we don't need to spurn, shun or even hate the unbeliever or the heretic. Hopefully, we have recognised the assumptions which really do weaken the argument against thought-control and policing.

However, Holy Scripture does demand excommunication for those unbelievers who would seek to corrupt the Church (see I Cor v.1-13), but since the Church is not the same as Society, we cannot equate excommunication with expulsion from Society in general which is what ISIS seek to achieve. If the mandate of the Catholic Church is to love everyone then this must include heretic and unbeliever alike with much affection and a genuine heartfelt desire for their good. This good must include their freedom of choice since that freedom is part of being human. So is the Catholic Church being Kripkean in its expulsion of those who disagree with it?

Let us try and be reasonably clear, here. Marxism has a set of tenets which must be held for a person to claim to be a Marxist. It is the potential Marxist who maybe Kripkean not the set of Marxist beliefs. The potential Marxist must weigh all the evidence for and against Marxist belief to see if it is sufficiently convincing as to adopt Marxist belief. If he becomes an actual Marxist, then he will only become Kripkean if he refuses to consider all the evidence. If he reconsiders and rejects Marxism, then he ceases to be a Marxist. Likewise, if one rejects the doctrine of the Catholic Church, then one ceases to be a doctrinal Catholic. Such a one cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic Church because they do not accept the dogma of the Catholic Church. Their testimony is rejected by the Church.

That sounds like the Catholic Church must be Kripkean then. After all, to be Catholic, one must accept the testimony of the Holy Scriptures, the testimony of the Church Fathers, and the testimony of the Oecumencial Councils. However, does one do so by rejecting evidence to the contrary?

The Oeumenical Councils arrived at their decision precisely through argument, debate, evaluation and considering evidence. Admittedly, some of them were conducted in a less than orderly fashion, but arguments pro- and con- were offered and the position of the Church clarified. Thus, in accepting the Councils, the Catholic has already accepted dogma which have been proved through reasoning and argument. Ultimately, all the dogmatic reasoning has its authority from Holy Scripture which itself owes its compilation to the Church. The dogma of the Church has been formed by argument, reasoning and debating all the available evidence of the time. The Church can be truly accused of being Kripkean, and therefore irrational, if it rejects all evidence to contrary positions without rational reasons.

I think it fair to say that the Catholic Church reasons as follows:

 1) Christianity is the only true religion.
2) Other religions offer an alternative morality.
3) Alternative moralities are not completely true.
4) Where an alternative morality is not true, it is immoral.
5) Alternative moralities have some inherent immorality.
6) Immorality must not be taught by the Church.
7) People who teach the immoral aspects of other religions cannot be allowed to remain in the Church without recantation.

(7) sounds harsh, but does come with Scriptural warrant, e.g. Titus iii.10. It is not possible to be a Hindu and a Christian because one cannot believe in many gods and one God simultaneously. It must be remembered that each of us sins and falls into immorality somewhere along the line. While that certainly isn't ideal, we do have the teaching that forgiveness is guaranteed to those who truly repent with a contrite heart and trust in the Death and Resurrection of Our Lord. The Church has structures to help sinners and works toward the salvation of every human being. It's when, not only do we accept immorality, but actively teach it that there is trouble.

The truth is that there are a lot of moralities out there: Catholic Christianity is only one, despite the fact that I believe it to be the true, literally God-given morality. However, part of that morality is a fundamental belief in the dignity and worth of the individual regardless of whether they are Christian or not. That makes it very open to discussing the human good and arriving at some form of compromise in most situations.

Admittedly, there are some moral dilemmas such as Gay-Marriage where the dogma of the Church are in sharp conflict with secular morality. They are conflicts of moralities. Is the Church Kripkean on these? It is if it won't discuss these rationally.or dismiss the opposing view out of hand. There is no room on either side of the issue for the waving of banners or placards with pithy slogans if there is no desire in each and every one of the banner wavers to sit down and at least seek some common ground or at least forge some appreciation of the opposing argument with a view to finding some community. As I have already argued, Gay Marriage is perfectly valid in legal terms when "legal" means secular law, but it can never be a sacrament for the validity of sacraments can only be discussed within the Church. Other issues have similar reasoning.

Excommunication is indeed a distancing from the Church, it need not, indeed should not be permanent. Certainly, the burning of heretics is just as vile as the heresy they have promulgated if not more so. However, arguments have an arena in which debates can be played out. If that arena is within Church teaching, then that means submitting to the Church Law. If that arena is secular, then the Church cannot afford to hold to Kripkean dogmata. It must hold to the Faith, yes, but that Faith is in a God Who is big enough to allow the freedom of the will so that all can function together in Society. The problem comes when the arenas get confused. An established church might have such problems.

Whoever controls the secular arena controls morality and thus how to deal with those who are immoral. Now, whose problem is that?

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