instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Don't feed the extremists

In my last post, I wrote that it's a shame progressives have so abused the idea of a "seamless garment" approach to social issues that conservatives have been able to make great headway establishing an "anti-abortion only" approach.

My claim can be generalized: Laxism feeds rigorism. Or perhaps: Laxism and rigorism feed each other.

In a narrow and informal sense, "laxism" is the principle that a theological or moral position can be held if there is any basis at all for asserting it, however weak and tenuous it might be. "Rigorism" is the principle that the most stringent position on a disputed question must be held.

In practice, laxists tend to look for doubt and find it where there is certainty, and rigorists tend to look for certainty and find it where there is doubt.

When an extreme position is proposed, the opposite extreme seems easier to propose as well. Maybe because the opposite extreme is considered more for how completely it resists the first extreme than for how extreme it is in itself. Maybe because people who tend to extreme positions are more willing to express them in an environment in which extreme positions are common.