Monty Krakovitz ’25 (DCI Fellow)
As part of the deliberative training for the DCI Fellows, we were asked to read a section from the book written by Scott Akin and Robert Talisse titled “Why We Argue (And How We Should).” The book shows the importance of political deliberation from the perspective of Aristotle . The authors present the view of Aristotle that “man is a political animal” and that what we believe or do in the privacy of our own home affects society at large.
When Aristotle makes this claim, he doesn’t necessarily mean politics in terms of voting. He conceives of politics as how individuals relate to one another to form communities. From the moment that each of us are brought into this world, we are defined by our relationships to others. The newborn is not an isolated individual, but is someone’s son or daughter who relies on his or her mother and father for support. Likewise, the new mother is also not an isolated individual, but has obligations to her child. The term “political animal” means nearly everyone has duties and relationships with others, who also have relationships with others, connecting everyone together to form the society at large.
The authors also give an example of private beliefs affecting others as well. For example, a person, let’s call her Nancy, schedules a picnic at the park with the false view that the weather is sunny when it is clearly raining, and proceeds to invite her family from out of town to the picnic. The family does not know that it is raining at the park because they are coming from a distance. After being falsely told that the weather is perfect, they all drive in to find out that the weather is not, in fact, perfect but is pouring rain. The family has now wasted their day because the person who scheduled the picnic held the false belief that the weather is nice. Nancy’s false belief about the weather led her to act on that belief, which in turn inconvenienced her family in a large way.
This example displays a relatively low-cost error considering that no one was harmed, but the same principle can be applied to other circumstances where the consequence of holding false beliefs is much higher. The truth is that ideas have consequences. When a man holds a false belief, he is likely to act in accordance with that false belief, leading to bad behavior that affects others in his community.
This semester, one of the D Team deliberations will be on abortion which is a topic ripe for discussion. The D Team will get down to the root of people’s beliefs in order to discover why citizens hold the views that they do. It is clear that a person’s views on this moral, political, and ultimately religious issue affects their actions. From the Pro-Life perspective, holding a false moral view on abortion directly affects the unborn child whose life is now endangered by the mother’s false view on the sanctity of life. From the Pro-Choice perspective, the false view that abortion is a moral evil leads citizen to vote in a way that infringes on the mother’s bodily autonomy.
This is why deliberation is vital: our private views do matter, and they matter deeply. In some cases, a false opinion can lead to minor inconveniences. In others, a false opinion can lead to the death of an unborn child or the loss of a women’s bodily autonomy. That is why it is important to argue: it helps avoid the high cost of error and aids in answering the big questions facing our society today.