public debate

Defy Mob Justice by Celebrating the Life of Robert E. Lee

On October 12, 1870, a good man closed his eyes on this world. Although loved by many, and respected by most at the time of his death, history has since laden Robert E. Lee with abuse and hatred. The change has been long coming, but Dylann Roof's 2015 racist shooting raised disgust to a fever [...]

Another Favorite Fallacy: Judging An Argument By Its Source

In a previous essay, I identified the ad lapidem fallacy as the one most commonly used in social media “debates” (I use that term very loosely). This is the tactic of responding to an argument not by addressing its substance, but by mocking it, scoffing at it, or otherwise denigrating it so that observers will [...]

A Lament on the Declining Quality of Public Discourse

In view of the two recent presidential debates I find these words of Plato remarkable: They think they are having not a quarrel but a conversation, because they are unable to examine what has been said by dividing it up according to its forms. Hence, they pursue mere verbal contradictions of what has been said [...]

Catholics Who Drop F-Bombs with Aplomb

At the end of last year, a noted Catholic book publisher offered me a contract to write a book based on four columns I wrote three years ago. The stories were about three children who died young after suffering greatly but also bringing many to the faith through their suffering, their example and their prayers. [...]

The New Leaven of the Pharisees: Judging Another’s Love

At first glance, it may not seem that the nature of public discourse—particularly on faith and morals—has changed all that much since the days of Jesus’ engagement and entanglement with so many different groups during his public ministry. Don’t we still have all the usual suspects today? Over there we have the religious zealots; over [...]

Time to Abandon Comfort And Defend Essentials

The issues that now put Catholics in opposition to secular public thought are too basic to ignore. The Church accepts God as our reference point, and views freedom to develop our relation to Him and act by reference to it as basic to our good and our dignity. In contrast, secular society has made our [...]

Logic: What’s Missing from Public Discourse

What often passes for public discourse in contemporary society is really just a simulacrum, an imitation, of real “discourse” in the sense of a “reasoned exchange of ideas.”  One realizes before long how much we are suffering from the current lack of that key ingredient within all older forms of liberal arts education: namely, logic. [...]

Arguing Over Argument in the Internet Age

The Internet means that today anyone can discuss any topic at any time with anyone who is interested in it. When the possibility first appeared it seemed to open up a brave new world. Whatever your interest you could always find people who wanted to discuss it. The innovation also seemed to have political consequences [...]

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