The President and the Pope
sjamar at law.howard.edu
Mon Jun 14 11:40:08 PDT 2004
On Monday, June 14, 2004, at 02:04 PM, Will Linden wrote:
> Or if in 1967, the excommunication of Leander Perez has been
> preceded by a presidential colloquy seeking papal support for civil
> rights campaigns. (Sorry, but for years I have been driven up the wall
> by increasingly incoherent responses on why That Was Different).
It is different because substance, not just process, matters. The
coherence or lack thereof of an analogy or distinction is based not
merely on the formal structural components of what is being compared,
but also on the substance of what is being compared. Depending on
one's substantive values, an analogy or distinction will be more or
less persuasive. To you an analogy between the unborn and the fight
against slavery may seem obvious. But to find it compelling one must
ignore the vast array of substantive differences between the two
settings. From the other point of view, the distinctions between the
two may seem compelling, but that too requires either ignoring the
important similiarities or choosing to favor the distinctions over the
I find favoring the death penalty and opposing abortion to be
incoherent positions. I understand the arguments made, I just don't
find them persuasive. Same with FGM and male circumcision -- I
understand the arguments distinguishing one from the other, I just
don't find them compelling or even persuasive on a lower standard than
compelling. I recognize the distinctions being drawn; I just don't
think them to be valid in some cases, or sufficient in others.
So, Will, climb down off the Perez wall, and accept that what each of
us find persuasive is not the same thing and what each of us find
coherent will vary with underlying beliefs.
One of the incredibly difficult things constantly exposed on this list,
because of who participates and because of the nature of the topics on
it, is that we do not start from a common set of premises such that we
can convince each other of the correctness of our positions with
regularity. This is a deeper concern than the more commonplace problem
(which we also regularly observe) of disagreeing about the application
of the premises, even if we can agree upon what they are or should be.
Steve [avoiding-my-real-work] Jamar
Prof. Steven D. Jamar vox: 202-806-8017
Howard University School of Law fax: 202-806-8428
2900 Van Ness Street NW mailto:sjamar at law.howard.edu
Washington, DC 20008 http://www.law.howard.edu/faculty/pages/jamar
"When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old,
I too will live by the sea."
"That is all very well, little Alice," said her grandfather, "but there
is a third thing you must do."
"What is that?"
"You must do something to make the world more beautiful."
from "Ms. Rumphius" by Barbara Cooney
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