Superficial respect

Stanley Fish is at the old stand. (Thanks to Christopher Moyer for the link.) Liberalism, secularism, universalism – he hates’em.

“Liberal principles,” declares Milbank, “will always ensure that the rights of the individual override those of the group.” For this reason, he concludes, “liberalism cannot defend corporate religious freedom.” The neutrality liberalism proclaims “is itself entirely secular” (it brackets belief; that’s what it means by neutrality) and is therefore “unable to accord the religious perspective [the] equal protection” it rhetorically promises. Religious rights “can only be effectively defended pursuant to a specific and distinctly religious framework.” Liberal universalism, with its superficial respect for everyone (as long as everyone is superficial) and its deep respect for no one, can’t do it.

So Fish equates “deep respect” with respect for the rights of the group (or rather the “rights” of the group, since in fact groups don’t have rights, because rights are linked to personhood) at the expense of individual people, and “superficial respect” with respecting the rights of individual people and thereby requiring everyone to be superficial. Fish thinks respect for groups at the expense of individuals is deep and respect for individuals at the expense of groups is superficial. Well – he’s a prosperous straight white guy, and maybe he just doesn’t have the imagination to understand what it would be like to be subject to the authority of clerical bullies.

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