30 sept. 2011

Inadequate Analogies: The Argument from Aesthetics

People arguing religion with me often use analogies from aesthetics. The argumentative move consists of comparing a religious text to a novel, or a religious preference for an aesthetic one. There are a few reasons why this argument falls flat on its face. In the first place, everyone recognizes that aesthetic preferences are personal and subjective, and inarguable at some level for that reason. If religion were that, and only that, nobody would have a problem with it. There aren't people writing books saying how nobody should listen to music or look at art.

Religion does two things that art doesn't. It makes serious truth-claims, and it organizes people into groups devoted to those claims.

For example, my judgment in the Harry Potter novels does not depend on whether Harry Potter really exists or not. In fact, I'm pretty sure he doesn't, but that doesn't effect anyone's judgment, because everyone knows this. It's a made-up story. If it were a religious text I think it would be treated quite differently. Reading it would be a religious duty, and belief in its truth claims would be a test of devotion. People who said it was made up would be ostracized from the community.

So go ahead and use aesthetic analogies, but be aware of what their implications are.

1 comentario:

Clarissa dijo...

"People who said it was made up would be ostracized from the community. "

- Anybody who wants to be part of any community deserves anything the community decides to inflict on them, I believe. :-)