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August 20, 2009

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ms

Oh please--let this discussion die.

Nato

Though there's no requirement to continue to participate, I can't see that Nathan should stop discussing a core issue.

ms

It is an issue on which the participants have been talking past one another with acrimony and I suspect always will.

ms

A case in point would be using my quotation out of context against me when the discussion had ended. He can discuss what he wants on his blog, but that is a cheap shot.

Nathan Smith

While one likes to avoid acrimony in debates, I'm not sure that acrimony is negatively correlated with the learning and getting at the truth which one hopes for in debates. Even "talking past one another" can be fruitful in the sense that one tries to understand a whole different way of looking at a question, which may lead you either to struggle to explain why that approach is fundamentally wrong, or to reframe your own insights in a new language. For example, an earlier debate on immigration led me to think that JM's language about "human flourishing," which previously had seemed somewhat opaque, might actually supply a powerful supplement to my more accustomed ways of making the case for open borders. I can see why it would be frustrating to debate immigration with me for people who don't want to change their views, because I am not really persuadable here: the truth is too plain. Perhaps they feel exploited, feeling, with some truth, that I am baiting them and then trying to hone my skills on them, seeking to become a more effective advocate on any future occasions that might arise. And that, indeed, is more or less what I'm doing. I am about as likely to be persuaded on fundamentals as Thomas Aquinas was to be persuaded by Siguer of Brabant. And yet many worthwhile intellectual works, perhaps, have emerged from such "acrimonious," "talking past each other" debates.

Nathan Smith

MS objects, perhaps, to my omission of the word "probably" from her quote. Perhaps that makes a difference, although I don't see how-- the claim is false even as a probabilistic claim. (Suffice it to say that people die trying to get here even from the place whence illegal immigration is easiest, Mexico. I presume no one is doubting that legal migration channels are accessible only to a small minority of mankind?) Anyway, the reason I quoted it was because I found her false factual claim (without the "probably") to be an especially felicitous expression of the kind of world we should strive for: a world in which those whose dearest wish is to come for America, can.

ms

Thankyou. More condescension is appreciated.

Joyless Moralist

" I am about as likely to be persuaded on fundamentals as Thomas Aquinas was to be persuaded by Siguer of Brabant."

Let's just switch them! You're as likely to be persuaded as Siger of Brabant was to be persuaded by Thomas Aquinas! That's a good note on which to end.

Nathan Smith

JM's barb is not, perhaps, as sharp as she thinks, since Thomas Aquinas is not an authority in *my* tradition. I haven't understood enough about Siguer of Brabant's views to have a strong opinion, though they sound a little... odd. But I hope JM is not being audacious enough to suggest that advocacy of open borders is a theological heresy even from her own Catholic point of view. There have been, in the past, many social institutions and customs, previously taken for granted, which were abolished with largely Christian motivations. Polygamy is an example in many parts of the world. Slavery, ancient and modern, is an example of an institution with which Christianity at times made an uneasy peace, but which nonetheless at a certain level it was fairly resolute and condemning. Catholic priests in the South gave communion to slaveowners-- or, in my own tradition, Orthodox priests gave communion to owners of serfs-- and while the practice makes me uneasy I won't say they were wrong. But I don't believe the Catholic or Orthodox ever excommunicated advocates of the abolition of slavery, or of serfdom, and I would certainly be chagrined to discover that they had done so. Similarly, for JM to make any link between theological orthodoxy and advocacy of migration controls strikes me as a dangerous false step.

Nathan Smith

By the way, I have just been reading *The Brothers Karamazov,* the conversation in the elder's cell about the separation of church and state. Wow! When it comes to theologically based advocacy of a radical libertarian vision of the fading away of the state, Dostoyevsky goes a lot farther than even I would dare to go!...

Joyless Moralist

Friend. Lighten up! You were the one who compared yourself to the greatest of the Latin Doctors and us to an infamous group of heretics. If that's not begging to be needled, I don't know what is!

Hey, I know. Let's play Augustine and the Donatists! I'll be Augustine.

Or oh, oh, I know! Let's play David and Goliath. You can be Goliath, 'cause you're bigger. :P

Nathan Smith

Well, I just meant that, like Thomas Aquinas, I went into the debate pretty confident in the correctness of my general position. I was willing to change my mind on smaller points and eager to adapt my presentation to make it more persuasive to a given audience, but I was unlikely to be persuaded in essentials. I didn't mean that to oppose immigration is to commit the heresy of the Double Mind.

Joyless Moralist

Well, okay then. You don't have to be Goliath. You can be Absalom. :)

Nathan Smith

Maybe Ben Franklin. He was an early abolitionist whose cause had a long time to wait before its goals were achieved, and in the meantime he was involved with a lot of other things.

Joyless Moralist

I certainly won't fight you for Ben Franklin. I hate that guy. He was a dandy and a philanderer and had way too high an opinion of himself.

Nathan Smith

I'm glad I didn't aim too high. :) It would, alas, be inapt to identify myself with anyone too saintly...

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