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Discourse Preparation: Week 4
Week of February 19, 2001
Uploaded Saturday evening, February 10, 2001

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The Culture of Denial: Villon, 15th Century, Courbet, 19th Century

The Culture of Denial: What do you expect? of animals like that?

Francois Villon, Ballade des Pendus, circa 1450
Gustave Courbet, Still Life with Apples and Pomegranate

Courbet's still life speaks of the achievements of civilization in the 19th Century.
Does that mean that we have overcome the inhumanity of the 15th Century in which
we could ignore the death of hanged men as we picnicked?
How does Francois Villon's Ballade des Pendus relate to this discussion?
What would Fellman say? What would Henry and Milovanovic say?

Caliifornia State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wissconsin, Parkside
Latest Update: February 22, 2001

E-Mail jeannecurran@habermas.org

Assignment for All Classes for Week 4:

Shared Comments on Readings:

Reading Preparations by Class:

Moot Court: Arguing Justice

  • Mark Danner's "The Road to Illegitimacy" Feature article, New York Review of Books. February 22, 2001.Online. Discussion questions:

    1. Charles Fried and Ronald Dworkin: "A Badly Flawed Election: An Exchange" New York Review of Books, February 22, 2001.
      Please browse through the argument on the legal niceties of the Bush v. Gore decision. By Tuesday, February 19, I plan to lecture on the legal terms and explain the legal ramifications of trying to legislate morality. More later, jeanne

    2. What does Charles Fried mean when he says that "in the end all this high dudgeon is unjustified for a deeper reason. This election, as any statistician will tell you, was in effect a tie. A difference of 0.5 percent in an election in which a hundred million votes were cast--at various times, under diversecircumstances, by a wide variety of means--exceeds our present capacity for accurate tabulation." How does this relate to random error? And if Fried is right did the US Supreme Court decision deal with that issue?

    Theory: Arguing Justice

    In the Danner article it's easy to get caught up in the "facts." And it's also easy to present as a fact that "Bush won" or "Gore won." But those "facts" may not be valid. That's what this article is really about. We cannot specify the universe. No matter how careful we try to be, we are going to make errors. So what about errors in our facts? They're not really so terrible, you know. We all make mistakes. That's life. So why do we hate to be caught in a mistake? Clue: we've criminalized the concept of error. We punish people for making mistakes. Now, there's a good way to chill creativity and paradigm shifts.

    What does Danner's article say about who won the election? He says we'll never know. It was too close to call. But it was too close to call from the first minute FOX called it under the tutelage of a Bush family member. From there on it was all shouting.

    1. How does this relate to the topic of unstated assumptions in theory?

      Consider that the assumptions are unstated. So communication is already difficult. We have to guess what the Other is assuming. Often in "guessing" we think we "know" and respond with "anger" about what we "know" the Other is "thinking." Consider the mess.

    2. How does this relate to routinization and categorical thinking?

      Consider that patterns and shorthand develop naturally to ease work jargon. We begin to use restricted language code that suggests at the unstated level much more than it says. This restricted language code is built into the interpersonal relations at the work level. Assumptions are not only unstated and included. In this process, they are routinized and given normative acceptance.

    3. How does this relate to theory? How could theory help us avoid these philophical pitfalls in assuming that "we know?"

      Consider awareness. This will lead us into a consideration of why we must choose either consensus or conflict. Entropy seems more like it. Confusion all the way.

    Peace and Conflict: Arguing Justice

      Danner's article clearly suggests that we need to rethink the elections from a variety of viewpoints. What are some of the things you would like a democratic election to accomplish?
    1. Consider "an end to the contest." Why? Closure? Does closure rank higher than justice? And what is justice? My candidate should win? See how quickly we get to some of thesic basic concepts? Whether we think them through or not, most of us do wonder about them. And we do have opinions about them. Sometimes our opinions are not well thought out. That's when theory helps us discover the contradictions in our thinking, and helps us question systematically the assumptions on which our conclusions are based.

    Criminology: Arguing Justice

    What are we really arguing in Danner's article? Are these technicalities about chads or are these people's constitutional rights? Perhaps we need to remind ourselves occasionally to keep the eye on the ball.

    If we argue passionately about chads, we have little energy left for those issues that might matter more. And sometimes the most important issues are the easiest to lose sight of.

    1. Can you imagine a way that the issue of chads can move into the arena of civil rights and re-focus the election issue?

      Consider the disenfranchised voters. Consider the cost of traditional budgeting for equipment and maintenance. Consider the frustration of being told it's all about chads.

    2. Money can't buy everything. Habermas says so. We can't buy legitimacy, and he hopes that will save us through our system of law. But money does buy power. Consider the election dilemma as a criminal case, no holds barred, win or else, John Wayne style shoot out. Does John Wayne guarantee you'll win? Probably, because he's the star. But if the other side could hire a faster gun. . . The Old West was full of ambiguity. The good guys didn't always win.

      Consider the "privilege of wealth." In the Presidential elections both had wealth. What kind of wealth? What privileges were there?

    3. At what points did one begin to accuse the Other of "doing something wrong?" Like trying to "steal the election?"