To engage in democratic politics means seeing your fellow citizens as equal autonomous agents capable of making up their own minds. And that means that in a functioning democracy, we owe one another reasons for our political actions. And obviously these reasons can’t be “reasons” of force and manipulation, for to impose a view on someone is to fail to treat him or her as an autonomous equal. That is the problem with coming to see ourselves as more like Glauconian rhetoricians than reasoners. Glauconians are marketers; persuasion is the game and truth is beside the point. But once we begin to see ourselves — and everyone else — in this way, we cease seeing one another as equal participants in the democratic enterprise. We are only pieces to be manipulated on the board.
Critics of reason, from Haidt to conservative intellectuals like Burke and Oakeshott, see reason as an inherently flawed instrument. As a consequence, they see the picture of politics I’ve just suggested — according to which democracies should be spaces of reasons — as unfounded and naïve. Yet to see one another as reason-givers doesn’t mean we must perceive one another as emotionless, unintuitive robots. It is consistent with the idea, rightly emphasized by Haidt, that much rapid-fire decision making comes from the gut. But it is also consistent with the idea that we can get better at spotting when the gut is leading us astray, even if the process is slower and more ponderous than we’d like. Giving up on the idea that reason matters is not only premature from a scientific point of view; it throws in the towel on an essential democratic hope. Politics needn’t always be war by other means; democracies can, and should be places where the exchange of reasons is encouraged. This hope is not a delusion; it is an ideal — and in our countdown to November, one still worth striving for.
Il s’agit d’un court extrait d’un article de Michael Lynch sur le blog The Stone, à propos du récent ouvrage du psychologue Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind. L’ensemble de l’article est intéressant et pose la question de la place de la raison et de la rationalité dans le débat public. Lorsque l’on lit un auteur comme Haidt (dont les travaux s’inscrivent dans la lignée, de plus en plus longue, de recherches en économie, psychologie et philosophie qui viennent démystifier la rationalité humaine) on ne peut s’empêcher de penser que les théories rationalistes de la justice sont insuffisantes pour comprendre les principes de justice qui régissent nos société.