Should Mormon Intellectuals be Kantians? (or, Why Intellectual Integrity is Overrated)

In Kant’s well known “Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?”, he offers a formula for dissent within a benevolent social order, by distinguishing between the public and private expressions of judgment. As an officer of the law or of the church, one has a duty to obey; as a private thinker, one has the duty to offer reasoned critique in circumstances where it will not (immediately) undermine the good order of the community.

Now in many affairs conducted in the interests of a community, a certain mechanism is required by means of which some of its members must conduct themselves in an entirely passive manner so that through an artificial unanimity the government may guide them toward public ends, or at least prevent them from destroying such ends. Here one certainly must not argue, instead one must obey. However, insofar as this part of the machine also regards himself as a member of the community as a whole, or even of the world community, and as a consequence addresses the public in the role of a scholar, in the proper sense of that term, he can most certainly argue, without thereby harming the affairs for which as a passive member he is partly responsible. Thus … a pastor is bound to instruct his catecumens and congregation in accordance with the symbol of the church he serves, for he was appointed on that condition. But as a scholar he has complete freedom, indeed even the calling, to impart to the public all of his carefully considered and well-intentioned thoughts concerning mistaken aspects of that symbol, as well as his suggestions for the better arrangement of religious and church matters. Nothing in this can weigh on his conscience.

Or, in the pithy paraphrase of Jeremy Bentham, “Under a government of Laws, what is the motto of a good citizen? To obey punctually, to censure freely.”

A simplified version of this notion was operative in my family, captured in the oft-repeated dictum, “obedience gives you the right to question.” The reasons for this, particularly in relation to gospel principles, were slightly different from Kant’s. If one were not precisely obedient to the injunctions one questioned, went my parents’ explanation, rational inquiry could not proceed without the taint of self-justification, and one could never arrive at an unbiased assessment of the principle or practice in question.

It seems to me that something like this notion, with both Kantian and Haglundian (ha!) explanations, underlies much of our discourse about proper conduct for Mormon intellectuals. Orthodoxy, we will say, is not required, but orthopraxy is. It was all well and good for Pelletiah Brown to believe as he wanted to about the beasts in Revelation, but had he dissented over a less arcane doctrinal question or over some principle with immediate practical import (like, oh, say, the propriety of taking more than one wife), it is not difficult to imagine that his disagreement with his leaders might have ended less happily. The wise intellectual will avoid public criticism of leaders, though s/he may express some criticism privately, through proper channels. It is important to build good will by supporting the program of the church publicly. Armand Mauss has offered one of the best articulations of this strategy. (And have I mentioned lately that you should subscribe to and read Sunstone and Dialogue and JMH and BYUStudies so that you don’t miss these gems? You should!!) And, of course, we often hear the nastier (and most often false) inverse of the proposition in gossip about those whose critique of church doctrine, history, or practice leads them away from participation: he or she must have some secret sin for which these questions are a cover. Heteropraxis preceeds heterodoxy, on this model.

An opposing position to the Kantian/Benthamian/Haglundian model is also frequently heard among Mormon intellectual types. It goes like this: once I had concluded x, intellectual integrity required that I give up Church activity and/or affiliation. “Authenticity,” “conscience” and “loyalty to the truth” also seem potent to impose this requirement of disaffection. Ironically, this discourse employed so often by those intending to disaffiliate with Mormonism is entirely embedded in Mormon cultural, historical, and even scriptural narratives, from Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision (‘For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.”) to stories of conversion to the Book of Mormon or other truths so powerful that they cannot be denied, and that some particular course of action is required by assent to them. Deconversion narratives that deploy this rhetoric are, structurally, at least, barely a departure from the kinds of stories that elicit head-nodding approbation in testimony meetings.

I don’t want to argue that there is no such thing as intellectual integrity, or that there are not some violations of conscience so painful and so extreme as to require dissenting action. I do, however, want to note that “intellectual integrity” is a fairly recent historical construct, and suggest that it may be rather less important than we good, post-Enlightenment liberals may suppose. It seems to me that few truths are so compelling as to require the abandonment of communities of belief or affection or of religious practice. Against the Mormon deployment of the narrative of conversion to undeniable truths, and the subsequent requirement that one leave family, church, and accustomed modes of life behind in order to be “true” to newfound knowledge, I want to argue that the situation is almost always more complicated than such absolutist narratives allow.

Moreover, all religious practice and belief are in some sense opposed to the Enlightenment ideal of an unfettered intellect discerning rational truths. Perhaps the best-known exposition of this problem is in Alma, Chapter 32. Despite the modernist, almost scientific procedural description, Alma takes as a given in the experiment that the seeker will “desire to believe.” Such desire inevitably contaminates the project of rational discovery. The act of “praying for a testimony” always already contains assent to a great many of the truths of which one might seek “confirmation.”

This sort of “experiment” belongs to a pre-Enlightenment understanding of religious belief, one achieved not by the inculcation of doctrine or dogma, but by the cultivation of a particular sort of character. This cultivation was achieved by action, not by consideration or attainment of correct belief.

An examination of earlier modes of discourse about religious belief and practice may be helpful here. I am here borrowing, er, stealing shamelessly from Talal Asad’s discussion of the Rule of St. Benedict. Asad points out that this rule, like most prescriptions for monastic life, and, indeed for the formation of Christian character more generally, comprised precise directions for liturgical, social, emotional, and spiritual life, with the undifferentiated aim of fostering right belief, inspiring right action, and forming a virtuous character. On this model, the distinction between orthopraxis and orthodoxy is impossible. Moreover, such rules can only be followed in community, so that there can be no separation of public action and private belief–acting correctly in public is understood as a mechanism for developing the private interior life, not as distinct from a project of private reasoning or judgment. Consider this paragraph from Hugh of St. Victor’s explication of the Rule:

The novitiate is the road to beatitude: virtue leads to the latter, but it is discipline imposed on the body which forms virtue. Body and spirit are but one: disordered movements of the former betray outwardly the disarranged interior of the soul. But inversely, “discipline” can act on the sould through the body–in ways of dressing (in habitu), in posture and movement (in gestu), in speech (in locutione), and in table manners (in mensa).

Gesture is the movement and configuration of the body appropriate to all action and attitude. Gestus designates not so much a unique gesture as the animation of the body in all its parts. It describes outwardly a figure presented to the gaze of others…even as the soul inside is under the gaze of God.

And Asad’s gloss of this passage:

Disciplined gesture is thus not merely a technique of the body varying from one culture or historical period to another, it is also the proper organization of the soul–of understanding and feeling, desire and will. This concept of discipline, which is the measure as well as the sign of virtue, enables Hugh to make an equivalence between the human body and the community–an equivalence proposed not simply for the collective life of the cloister, but…for political order too.
The Christian notion of …discipline as the force necessary for coordinating an organic whole belongs to the vocabulary of duty. It presupposes a program of learning to lead a virtuous life under the authority of law, in which everyone has his or her proper place…[Talal Asad, Geneaologies of Religion, JHU Press 1993, p. 138)

On this model, Kant’s distinction between public act and private belief is impossible, because the whole aim of religiously-ordered behavior (“discipline”) is the collapse of that distinction, the alignment of the disorderly private will with the public order of the Christian rule.

It seems to me that for all our talk of personal truth and private conversion, the real genius of Mormonism may be in preserving the possibility of action within religious community and thus the hope of forming faithful character by doing things–becoming charitable by visiting teaching, becoming humble by following arbitrary dietary restrictions, cultivating the Christian virtues of obedience and submission by gritting one’s teeth and participating in the member missionary gimmick-du-jour, learning hope in the face of insurmountable odds by directing the ward choir. The vaunted “Mormon lifestyle” is then not merely the outward manifestation of belief, but in fact a way of creating that belief, mapping the order of the Kingdom of God onto individual character.

Of course I’m as terrified as any uppity feminist so-called would-be intellectual with modern notions of self and agency and conscience must be by the prospect of such radical submission and obedience (to say nothing of the more visceral terror of the proud sinner contemplating the need for reconciliation with holiness). But I am beginning to wonder if this sort of integrity–an irrationally aspirational wholeness of belief and character–might be richer than a sterile, Enlightened intellectual integrity uncontaminated by hope, desire, or the commitments of belonging. In any case, I can wholeheartedly love a religion that holds the paradoxical possibility of such obedience in productive tension with teachings of free agency and personal revelation.

Comments

  1. YES! Everyone should be Kantian. Now that I have answered the title I will read the rest of the post.

  2. Dang, Chris! I should have just asked you–could have saved myself a lot of typing ;)

  3. “Moreover, all religious practice and belief are in some sense opposed to the Enlightenment ideal of an unfettered intellect discerning rational truths.”

    I am still clinging to the idea that we can reconcile both religious practice/belief with the a Kantian-style for of enlightenment. I am primarily interested in the ethical and political implications of Kant.

    The first quote from “What is Enlightenment” has more to do with the use of religion in political and public arguments that it does the nature of proper religious belief. It is about freedom in the public square despite religious doctrine and dogma. Now that I think about it, this is an idea lost on most Mormons. However, I still have a hope that it is consistent with the restored gospel.

  4. BTW, great post. I am a political philosopher who struggles with this stuff more in my personal life than in my academic work. I is comforting to hear other talking in vocabularly familiar to me (even if you do it much better than I do).

  5. I’d quibble with that interpretation of What is Enlightenment–he talks specifically about teaching religious principles with which one disagrees as a means to maintaining order; it’s not just about how religious reasoning fits into politics. I don’t think one can miss the (problematic, imo)suggestion that a disjunction between public and private selves is possible, maybe even laudable.

  6. I have viewed public reason, in a Kantian and Rawlsian sense, as meaning that while we might accept religious truth without meeting the full standards or reason and rationality, we should not view those beliefs as legitimate public arguments. The public sphere is his primary focus in that piece.

    Your interpretation seems inconsistent with Kant’s other core writings. Of course, I am probably wrong. This is more my impression.

  7. And here’s where my training as lit. geek makes me way dumber than you–you are undoubtedly right about how this essay fits into the larger corpus of Kant’s theory. I tend to try to read just the small bits of text I can manage!

  8. Which is not to say, of course, that most lit. types are as dumb as I am!!

  9. Now, none of that. I still think that question about intellectual integrity is an important one and I will now get out of the way.

  10. Is it ok for someone else to break into this personal conversation?

    Great post, Kristine.

    Back to the previous conversation.

  11. Walt Nicholes says:

    This is a fine discussion, if held in the context of an organization of men, with the characteristics of an organization of men. In a way we are discussing the finer techniques of saddling a horse, and proposing to apply them to a giraffe.

    Rule 1: The church is true. (Would it be trite to say rule 2: see rule 1?)

    Rule 2: Not everything has been revealed. But it axiomatic that everything that is necessary to have been revealed SO FAR has been revealed (whether we are individually aware of the revelation having taken place, or the information contained in the revelation.)

    Rule 3: Each individual is entitled to individual revelation. (Axiom 1 is that this individual revelation will not contradict previous revelation, axiom 2 is that this individual revelation is operative only within the sphere of government BELOW the individual receiving it, and not always then. Axiom 3 is that some revelation could come from Satan, and not be detected.)

    (And of course) Rule 4: We all have agency to act.

    Given these rules, it seems to me that one must either be in the kingdom, or outside of it. The latitude for dissent is limited to the individual’s willingness to be in or out.

    To presume to educate “the Brethren” on a topic violates the rules above. To hope to sway the direction or influence of the brethren violates the rules above. To claim that one’s agency (supposedly informed by by one’s personal revelation) allows one to dissent without departing association is foolishness and violates the rules above. Of course, once one departs association, dissent is merely a matter of agency – in departing I suppose one “unsubscribes” to the rules above.

    I welcome contrasting opinions that are more than pride or rebellion based.

  12. #11- No thanks; I’ll pass. That last sentence is too subjective for me to engage.

  13. Walt, have you ever read any primary historical sources of Mormonism?

  14. Stapley, I’m not sure Walt even read Kristine’s post.

  15. Ah, true enough.

  16. Walt, I’m not sure I understand how your Rules are a response to my post. However, I do believe that I adequately anticipated the charge of pride and rebellion with “uppity feminist so-called would-be intellectual with modern notions of self and agency and conscience.” But I think we can still talk about the questions I’m asking. If only the righteous were allowed to speak, well, our testimony meetings would be a lot more like Quaker meetings :)

  17. Kristine,

    Great post.

    …“obedience gives you the right to question.” The reasons for this, particularly in relation to gospel principles, were slightly different from Kant’s. If one were not precisely obedient to the injunctions one questioned, went my parents’ explanation, rational inquiry could not proceed without the taint of self-justification, and one could never arrive at an unbiased assessment of the principle or practice in question.

    This is the way I grew up, too, though on reflection, I’m not sure exactly where I got this idea. Was this something you were taught, something you intuited, or otherwise?

    …he or she must have some secret sin for which these questions are a cover…

    …once I had concluded x, intellectual integrity required that I give up Church activity and/or affiliation…

    Deconversion narratives that deploy this rhetoric are, structurally, at least, barely a departure from the kinds of stories that elicit head-nodding approbation in testimony meetings.

    I think your points on these items are exactly right — both lines seem to suggest the same faulty structure of thought (and a similar resulting blindness to potential alternatives).

    I do, however, want to note that “intellectual integrity” is a fairly recent historical construct, and suggest that it may be rather less important than we good, post-Enlightenment liberals may suppose. It seems to me that few truths are so compelling as to require the abandonment of communities of belief or affection or of religious practice.

    Require? I agree.

    Moreover, all religious practice and belief are in some sense opposed to the Enlightenment ideal of an unfettered intellect discerning rational truths.

    It is here that your post seems to take a direction that I’d like to discuss a bit. You posit here and below that we’re stuck with either pre-Enlightenment irrationality that the Enlightenment itself freed us from, or with post-Enlightenment existentialism devoid of meaning. Do I overstate the conceptual line you draw?

    Despite the modernist, almost scientific procedural description, Alma takes as a given in the experiment that the seeker will “desire to believe.” Such desire inevitably contaminates the project of rational discovery. The act of “praying for a testimony” always already contains assent to a great many of the truths of which one might seek “confirmation.”

    This is a really good point. We’d find something pretty self-fulfilling about a prayer structured along the lines of “Dear God, I want to be a good Catholic. Please reveal to me: is the Pope your appointed leader on earth?”

    But back to the pre-/post-Enlightenment point… The passages you quote from the Rule of St. Benedict suggest to me not a decision to prefer pre-rational thinking over post-rational thinking, but rather a manner of integrating the body and the mind. Ken Wilber has presented structural ways of considering human development that seem to suggest that some of the things you cite with favor from Asad may be more consistent with development into a post-rational way of thinking, rather than reversion to pre-rational patterns. IIRC, Wilber’s the one who coined the “pre/trans fallacy,” a point that sometimes pre-rational ways of living and post-rational ways of living get mistakenly lumped together as “a-rational” thinking, the conflation at times elevating Santa-Claus-type thinking (consider The Secret) to unjustified comparisons with spiritual transcendence and at other times denigrating spiritual transcendence as only another variant of Santa-Claus-type thinking.

    I won’t belabor this line of thought more, but will end with this point: it seems to me that St. Benedict’s Rule and the absolutely right integration values you see in it might be better understood as a step or two beyond rational thinking, not a retreat from it.

    This…

    Gesture is the movement and configuration of the body appropriate to all action and attitude. Gestus designates not so much a unique gesture as the animation of the body in all its parts. It describes outwardly a figure presented to the gaze of others…even as the soul inside is under the gaze of God.

    …is just lovely.

  18. This is just wicked good. It’s a thoughtful answer to a serious question that many of us struggle with in a variety of forums. What great, practical insight. I especially like this idea:

    The vaunted “Mormon lifestyle” is then not merely the outward manifestation of belief, but in fact a way of creating that belief, mapping the order of the Kingdom of God onto individual character.

  19. Aaron Brown says:

    “Ironically, this discourse employed so often by those intending to disaffiliate with Mormonism is entirely embedded in Mormon cultural, historical, and even scriptural narratives…”

    At a time in my life when I was most seriously considering disaffiliation, it was one of what I suspect you refer to as these “Mormon cultural … narratives” that was in the forefront of my mind. We all love stories of the valiant investigator who, despite familial and societal and religious pressures, recognizes the truths of Mormonism, and is willing to jettison many of his prior associations, often at considerable cost, to pursue that which he knows to be true. The greater the personal cost of affiliating with the Church, the more noble and affirming the act of baptism. (At least this was how I and most other LDS missionaries I knew understood things). So at a later time when I (almost!) thought intellectual integrity demanded my exit from the faith, I would frequently reflect back on the paradigmatic “noble investigator”, willing to puruse truth at any cost. If we really believe his choice, and its accompanying sacrifices, to join the church is an admirable one, why wasn’t it equally admirable for me — and others similarly intellectually disaffected — to part with Mormonism in a similar fashion?

    In the end, I’m still here of course. But I still understand the mentality-of-needing-to-leave very well, even if I didn’t ultimately adopt it as my own strategy.

    You’re so right that the discourses on both sides are parallel, and I often find myself wishing that the ultra-orthodox recognized that it is acceptance of the premises they trumpet that ultimately helps lead many out of the fold.

    Aaron B

  20. Fascinating and heartfelt, Kristine. You and greenfrog have given me nourishing food for thought.

    (And you’ve once again inspired me to maintain my Dialogue and Sunstone subscriptions, although I just can’t justify BYU Studies or JMH when so many publications already languish around my house unread.)

    Because I’m currently working on a paper on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, I’m particularly interested in the question of privacy as it relates to religion and religious regulation. (I’m another one of those lit. types who gave up philosophy because it’s just too abstract. I crave the juicy, specific pleasures of narrative, character, and lyric intensity.)

    Although there’s much in the Kant/Haglund formulation that I find attractive–I’ve often understood many aspects of my religious life in terms of it–I agree that the severing of public and private in those terms is ultimately problematic. And while like greenfrog I find the explication of the Rule of St. Benedict absolutely lovely, I’m also wondering about the myriad ways that the collapse of private belief into public order can go wrong–the intrusive and puritanical extremes of emotional and sexual regulation explored in Measure for Measure, the state that policies every aspect of its citizens’ lives in Plato’s _Laws_. It’s an old and new problem: How do we have a community of humility and submission without degenerating into totalitarianism? Where is it, exactly, that totalitarianism goes off the rails, so to speak?

    All further evidence, I’m sure, that I too am an uppity feminist. One who’s procrastinating her paper, at that.

  21. Well, I’m probably in a little over my head here, as I’ve not read Kant (or can’t read Kant), but I do have a couple of observations.

    First, I’ve learned both in the business world and the church as well, that taking a contrary view without having the benefit of being a loyal worker/disciple gets you no respect and no hearing. Or perhaps a better way to phrase it, if you think a process is broken, you’ll have more credibility to change it if you prove it by trying to use it. If a business process that is in place is suspect, I’m going to have a better shot at fixing it if I don’t try to go around it. That’s a form of orthopraxy, as I understand it, and I have applied it to church situations on several occasions.

    I was looking over some notes last week from a stake PH leadership meeting some years ago, where a member of our Stake Presidency at the time was talking about councils (ie, ward councils, auxiliary presidency meetings, etc). Boring subject, but he said something interesting. He said that in the church, we should come prepared and expecting to receive revelation in these meetings. He then added, “If you have personal revelation that is different from what the presiding officer has instructed, it is likely that he or she has not heard all contrary view points, and you should share yours”. That advice I think plays to the integrity of conscience.

    It would be hard to imagine someone more orthodox than this member of our SP. But I think I also understand, from experience, that living in an orthodox manner often helps you to deal with those unorthodox thoughts, or the private integrity of conscience. Sometimes after a while, you may decide that the questions you were dealing with may not be quite so vital as you thought, or that the perceived differences are not all that great.

    This from an English Lit undergrad, now working as a cubicled tech-worker. I still think the permas are smarter than me, regardless of the conversations of the last couple of days.

  22. Peter LLC says:

    “obedience gives you the right to question”

    Nearly all of my co-workers come from the same Asian country. Whenever a new, ill-considered workplace policy is handed down from above, my first response is to go straight to the administration and point out the unintended consequences or other, less disruptive ways of achieving similar ends. My co-workers invariably recoil and tell me, “no, first we need to implement this policy; only then can we approach the administration, after we have complied and discovered that is does not work in actual practice.”

    It must be a cultural thing ’cause I don’t buy it. Sometimes a simple thought experiment can reveal the folly of our ways without the damage of real experience.

  23. StillConfused says:

    Growing up as a polite southerner, we never showed disagreement in public. We left that for a private matter. I see this as similar. For publicity’s sake, I agree with the Church. But in the quiet of my room, I have many questions.

  24. kristine N says:

    Kristine–you are my hero. This is pretty much why I follow at least the majority of prophetic counsel in spite of my heterodox thinking on some practices (at least, as I interpret what you’re saying–I’m a simple scientist and your vocabulary’s a little different). As much as my testimony keeps me involved, I would also not think it apprpopriate to criticise the Church from a position outside it. Too bad I can’t say this to people about science–most people get a tad upset when you suggest to them their intellectual background in any way invalidates their opinions.

  25. Thanks for this post Kristine. A lot of theory and philosophy these days is headed in the direction of thinking of people as embodied beings (rather than the disembodied minds theorized by enlightenment thinkers). I think there’s a lot to be said for thinking through issues like this with an understanding that we can’t separate our rationality (and integrity) from our daily lived experience. And I agree–for me a lot of the value of Mormonism is the way is changes me through its constant praxic requirements.

    As for the whole “I must have intellectual integrity, and so I can’t do x or y” strand of thinking (which I realize is an oversimplification), like you, I believe “that there are not some violations of conscience so painful and so extreme as to require dissenting action,” but I also have to remind myself that there’s a whole lot I don’t understand, and what does it mean to have intellectual integrity when my intellectual beliefs are constantly shifting and changing? It’s a difficult question.

    Anyway, thanks for the thought-provoking post!

  26. Eric Russell says:

    I can wholeheartedly love a religion that holds the paradoxical possibility of such obedience in productive tension with teachings of free agency and personal revelation.

    I’m a bit confused by this. Perhaps I understand ‘agency’ differently, but I don’t see any tension here. It is agency that makes such obedience possible. In fact, I would define agency as the “possibility of such obedience.”

  27. Peter LLC says:

    Too bad I can’t say this to people about science–most people get a tad upset when you suggest to them their intellectual background in any way invalidates their opinions.

    It would be a dreary world indeed if only experts were allowed to hold opinions. Let us not confuse opinion with positive knowledge.

  28. Kristine, your post reminds me of Maturana’s ideas on structural coupling. A metaphor that he uses is the beloved shoe. After providing many years of good service to the wearer, the shoe has molded to the foot and the foot has molded to the shoe. Both have been altered by the experience. Major differences in shoe or foot (i.e. size 10 foot and size 6 shoe) that were present at the outset of the relationship would have foreclosed the coupling, as would any major changes in either after the coupling had been achieved (i.e. bottom of shoe melts onto campfire rocks while heating feet at winter camp).

    Similarly, we structurally couple with our church. We make a commitment to sufficient orthodoxy and orthopraxy to allow us to wear the shoe of our faith. Similarly, the shoe provides enough benefit to eventually re-form our foot. However, major changes in shoe or church will eventually lead to blisters, shin splints, surgeries, or a trip to shoe store.

    Within the congregation wearing the same shoe as me, when I have concerns about the shoe, I am best able to evoke (Maturana would say “invite”) change by ensuring that my orthodoxy and orthopraxy are similar enough to the beliefs and behaviors of my fellow congregants that I’m not causing bunions in others. By remaining sufficiently aligned to maintain viability, I’m able to signal small differences that are assimilated, accommodated, and not rejected.

    Like shoe in foot, or hand in glove—as is the more common LDS metaphor.

  29. Kristine, a beautiful and thought-provoking post. And excellent comments, folks. This has been a great discussion. I don’t have much time to comment today, so just a couple thoughts.

    First, as ZD Eve alluded to, it’s not the general principle here (few truths are so compelling as to require the abandonment of communities of belief or affection or of religious practice) that I see as particularly controversial, but instead what limits there might be to the idea.

    And second (which is really just the flip side of the first), it occurs to me that the more robust this idea is, the more difficult (at least potentially) the church’s missionary efforts become. So, while this idea may have helped convince Aaron that he could and should stay in the church, presumably it will similarly convince others in different faith communities that they can and should stay in theirs. Moreover, doesn’t this idea implicate how insistent we are or should be that others abandon their communities for ours?

    Again, great discussion all.

  30. This is a truly interesting discussion. I don’t have much to add except a reminder of what Kant’s definitions of public and private were in this context.

    In the essay, when he used the word public (öffentlich), he basically meant published (veröffentlicht). He said scholars or pastors were bound to obey when performing their private duties for the state or church (what many of us would call public duties). But when exercising their reason in public, or in other words, when publishing for a readership (Leserwelt), he said they ought to be free to express themselves as they wished. I’m not exactly sure how that applies to the Church today, but I suspect that it’s largely true for most members. It’s usually only when the exercise of this freedom morphs into priestcraft or rebellion that people might run into difficulties.

  31. I do, however, want to note that “intellectual integrity” is a fairly recent historical construct,

    Socrates? recent?

  32. Peter–the key here (at least, as I’m reading this) is the “self justification” aspect. My statement was, at least mostly, tongue in cheek–it’s great when people have enough interest in science to even form an opinion, even if it’s wrong or based on incomplete information. The frustration behind my statement (which has next to nothing to do with Kristine’s post) comes from the willful denial of information that contradicts opinions that are wrong or scientifically unjustified that I encounter all too often when I hear discussions of politically charged scientific topics. The only real link between my statement and Kristine’s post is that frequently those who deny some bit of scientific evidence do so out of self justification. Or, at least, that’s how it seems to me. People should have opinions, but they should also always be willing to modify or discard those opinions as they encounter new information. That, however, requires a level of dispassionate observation that human beings aren’t terribly good at.

  33. Good call Obi-wan. Although I think Socratic integrity and what developed in the 20th century are pretty different.

  34. Not through reading yet but thus far I just wanted to say I really like this post.

  35. Finished. Brilliant.

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