You would have thought that ever since Aristotle gave us the rules of thinking we could have settled many issues which remain contentious. And yet, there remain people who think Castro’s Cuba has been a great success. People like me wonder if they are simply mad. Clearly not, in a clinical sense. There are those who believe that the cure for a debt crisis is more debt. Some of them are better at Maths than I am – not difficult. Hardly any of them pass the time by banging their heads against walls. Some people think that human well-being is best served by focusing on poverty and inequality – instead of concentrating on wealth creation. This is not a psychiatric condition. And yet, from my perspective, they are as wrong as it is possible to be.
There are many unresolved disputes among physical scientists; but there is more of a consensus about what constitutes evidence in the physical sciences than there is among political and economic thinkers. Logic can be formalised and logical absurdities can be demonstrated. But an argument about whether the gulag was a price worth paying is not going to be resolved by syllogisms – it depends upon your premises. I can ask you what you got for the price – shortages and stagnation? You can reply that “the dictatorship of the proletariat” is worth any price.
The gulf is colossal. Consensus seems impossible. What separates us is our values. Is it even theoretically possible to determine what constitutes the good?
I think we are getting metaphysical here. For me, the good is transcendent. It exists beyond me and you. We are actually getting theological here. Aye, there’s the rub!
The Western Tradition, with its Greek and Hebraic roots has served us very well. Christianity, for all the failings of Christians, has an awesome legacy, which, in my not-very-humble opinion, includes Science, Human Rights and Democracy. For most people, including many Socialists, Darwinians and Keynesians, these are pretty good things. I like Capitalism too; and I think it is part of the Christian legacy, though it got going late (in view of the fact that so many vested interests opposed it – they still do).
Have I got anywhere with this?