14 / CHRONICLESnabout some other craft. In many cases, “stating a position”nis only to represent oneself as a certain kind of person,nclaiming the affection of others of that kind, expressing anparticular loyalty. The world of letters is awash withnignorant assertion and self-dramatization.nPublic-spirited persons must have a view, must join thengame, because democracy itself requires us to make judgmentsnon the rights and wrongs of public issues: thenprocessing of nuclear waste, the likely general effects ofnincreasing personal taxation, the right of Argentinians tonclaim to “own” certain offshore islands. In most such cases,nwe do not know (and may suspect that neither does anyonenelse) what may befall or what was done a century and morenago or which paper to believe. Even if some particularnpromoter of opinions seems to us to have a good argumentngoing, we are uncomfortably aware that in civil matters anynargument is defeasible.nIn logic or mathematics, what follows from true premisesnis true, no matter what else is true; in civil questions (andnindeed in practical engineering), what “follows” from truenpremises may still be false. It may be true that the increasenof learning is a good thing, and that to experiment onnorphan children to their destruction will increase learning:nTo that extent the experiments are demonstrably good, butnother premises as indubitably decree that they are bad.nWhat sounds like a good idea may not be, because othernfactors that the promoter has not mentioned must be takenninto account. And how shall we ever know that no othernfactors are important? So democratic procedure requiresnthat we take sides on wholly inadequate information, thatnwe trust our lives and futures to bridges built by committee,nand by committees who are never sure that they have all theninformation that they would need for rational choice. Ornrather: They should not rationally be sure of this unless theynare rationally convinced that they here confront an absolute.nIf (as is highly likely) it is absolutely wrong to experimentnupon orphan children, no matter what advantages might bengained thereby, there is no need for the local ethicalncommittee to wait for further information on those advantages:nThe experiment can be ruled out at once. Thenimplication is twofold: First, a relatively uninformed electoratenmay rationally forbid or require those things that arenabsolutely wrong or absolutely right, without the inevitablenqualms that should afflict those who know that they arendeciding issues without full, value-free knowledge of thenconsequences of what they do. The only things of which wencould be rationally certain in advance of training andnlearning and experiment wholly beyond most or all of us arenabsolutes. Whatever is not absolutely wrong or right isnwrong or right only under conditions, and we only rarely (ifnever) know that those conditions alone obtain. Second (andnmore pragmatically), we can only believe that our decisionsnare more than arbitrary opinion if we believe that theynembody absolutes. If we cannot believe, on any particularnoccasion, that they do, we cannot rationally believe that thendecision is more than a choice which might as easily havengone the other way. “A person who arbitrarily chooses thenpropositions that he will adopt can use the word ‘truth’ onlynto emphasize the expression of his determination to hold onnto his choice” (C.S. Pierce, How to Make Our Ideas Clear,nnn1877). If I vote for Mrs. Tittiemouse not because I think hernright in principle but because I guess or choose to be thensort of chap that guesses that she may have better effects allnround than Mr. Tiptoes, my vote is a gesture, and anythingnI say on its behalf is opiniatrety.nThose who fixedly support a party, sect, or tribe mustnsuppose that theirs is an absolute devotion; those who do notnmust rationally regard their occasional votes as guesses or asngestures. The latter will be inclining to leave all necessarynparticular decisions to those supposed to be more rationallyninformed; the former will require that no decisions be takennagainst their ruling absolute. Those who have no absolutento back would be rash to complain whatever decision isntaken: Whether the government decides to abandon nuclearnweaponry or to acquire new generation missiles, it will benon the basis of much better information than the averagencitizen has. The government is quite probably mistakenn(and should bear in mind that this is so), but the probabilitynof John Doe’s being in error is far higher; therefore thosenwho have no absolutes to defend must rationally be morenacquiescent. The government may not know best, but itnwill on average know better. The voter’s office is only tonexpress occasional opinions that no one need attend to, tonhave the opportunity to “stand up for one’s opinions.”nA governing party, accordingly, whether it is literallynpolitical or merely a governing sect or sept of church,nprofession, or family, has three ways of securing its positionnwithout resort to arms. The first is to persuade an establishednmajority that its principles are absolutely right, thatnall good men and true can know beforehand what is to bendone or not done. Alternatively, if there is little hope ofnpersuading an established majority that what they do isnabsolutely right, they have good reason to encourage a lessnabsolutist view. It is better to encourage citizens to think ofnvotes as gestures or gambles. Best of all, from the governors’npoint of view, would be a situation where a mass of peoplenhad no settied principle of judgment, but were fashionablynconvinced of this opinion or that and held to it not becausenthey had or hoped to have any real evidence of truth, butnbecause they had built their personality around the fact ofnbeing the sort of person that thinks things like that.nGenuine absolutists, after all, think that certain thingsnare right or wrong, irrespective of the consequences or thenopinions of the ruling classes. Genuine relativists, believingnthat right or wrong depend upon a mass of detail that theynsimply do not have, can have no fixed or fanatical devotionneven to the cause they gamble on. What is required by anynparty leader is a mass of people who will express fanaticalndevotion to the cause while at the same time allowing thenleaders every practical decision and leaving no scope fornrational inquiry about the cause itself To query the cause isnto criticize a man’s religion, and so to mock the sort of mannhe has chosen to become while ingenuously pretending notnto realize that the cause is not adopted as a rational one,nincumbent on anyone who knew enough, and laboriouslyncheeked by honest inquirers. The best conclusion for thenleader is that we should be encouraged to have opinionsnwhich we half realize are ones we have no epistemic right tonhave. Those with the opposite “opinion” are less dangerousnthan those who reserve their judgment or claim not tonknow.n