Ghost castles defended by cowards and traitors

October 8, 2016 § 4 Comments

A doctrine is not a single formal proposition: it is a way of thinking about or understanding something.  ‘Motte and bailey‘ describes the structure of how a false doctrine is defended and advanced as a social phenomenon.

In the comments below donnie points out that, as a rhetorical strategy, it is easy to frame a criticism of any doctrine as motte-and-bailey.  Any doctrine will give rise to some politically correct or socially acceptable propositions and, if it is true doctrine, many non-PC propositions:

A friend insists [that motte and bailey] can be used to discredit anything one likes, and gave the example of the Catholic Church as a motte and bailey. As he tells it, one could say that the traditional doctrines and dogmas of the Church are the bailey (papal infallibility, the reality of Hell, opposition to contraception, etc.) and that post-Vatican II, Pope Francis-style Catholicism is the Church’s motte (it can mean whatever you like it to mean, so it’s hard to attack).

I don’t think this invalidates the insight of motte and bailey though, because this rhetorical strategy depends upon – as do all of modernity’s errors – the conflation of what is really true and intellectually defensible with what is socially acceptable to modern ears.  Donnie continues in a later comment:

Having mulled this over a bit more, it may be more accurate to say not that the Church is an example of the motte and bailey doctrine, but rather that the present Church hierarchy treat it as if it is, to the scandal of us all.

In other words, the Church’s “bailey” looks indefensible to modern eyes but is, in fact, very defensible and has been successfully defended for centuries. Our present-day Church leaders, however, do not see it as something that can be successfully defended and have retreated to the “motte” out of cowardice and a lack of faith. Some are even traitors who have run off to go toil in modernity’s bailey, urging those around them to follow suit.

So while this does not invalidate the insight of motte and bailey, it is important to be on the lookout for ghost castles defended by cowards and traitors.

§ 4 Responses to Ghost castles defended by cowards and traitors

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