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When Auguste Comte wondered why freedom of opinion in mathematics was not accepted – to say that two plus two equals three is not an opinion, it is nonsense – but it was in morality or politics, a beautiful dispute arose with John Stuart Mill. Comte was a positivist, he is considered the founder of positivism, that is, he believed it was worthwhile to deal only with what is measurable and verifiable in order to draw definitive laws, and that this method, the scientific method, deserved to be extended as much as possible, also to morality and politics. Mill was instead a liberal, an enemy of all dogmatism, including certain dogmatic furors of science, let alone dogmatism in morality and politics.
For what it’s worth, I’ve been with Mill all my life: transferring dogmatism from religions to science, and even to the social sciences, doesn’t seem like a big deal for humanity, and I write it after reading a tumultuous statement by Roberto Burioni: “Giving those who evade the vaccination obligation a one-off fine (€ 100) roughly equivalent to two parking restrictions (€ 41 x2) makes the obligation itself a grotesque antic. Sorry to see you come from a government that thought it was serious. I hope I have misunderstood ”. I report Burioni, perhaps arbitrarily elevating him to the ideal spokesperson, if only for the brutality of the opinion of that good number of scientists, from Massimo Galli to Guido Lopalco, shaken by fury at the levity of the sanctions that accompany the vaccination obligation. But above all Burioni is the coiner of a fortunate expression – “science is not democratic” – with which he is accustomed to reject the most devious and sometimes aggressive of objections.
It is difficult not to be a supporter of Burioni, but not because the statement is correct – “science is not democratic” – but because one, for example, me, unable to distinguish a virus from a bacterium, should exercise self-love and stop in front to a higher competence. For the rest, even science is democratic, indeed, and we have experienced it in the last two years during which we have lived together, most with resigned confidence, under the guidance of scientists carrying different theses, often opposite, often scientists today a thesis that diverges from yesterday’s thesis, and it is not a scandal: it is difficult to draw resolutive laws to contain a new phenomenon, not yet defined, in progressive and unpredictable evolution up and down the Greek alphabet. Science has proved democratic to the point of putting itself in government of the country, alongside politics, and with a wide deployment of political endowments: the prevalence of one theory over another, debate, compromise. You see if a coronavirus was supposed to arrive, a couple of centuries later, to prove Mill right and Comte wrong.
However, I would not like Burioni – always in the role of frontman of the most popular and assertive science – to continue to think like Comte to transfer the indisputability of science to the social sciences, in our case to law. So a government that imposes sanctions that do not live up to expectations is the protagonist of a “grotesque antics”, and we are in the field of opinions, of course, but it is such an energetic opinion that it seems irremediable. Here our great Riccardo Maggiolo has already explained with excellence in tones and arguments that it is not the norms that modify collective behavior, nor are the sanctions that persuade in compliance with the norms (otherwise it would not be explained why the United States with the death penalty have a much higher murder rate than Italy that does not have the death penalty). The idea that the law is valid on the basis of the deterrence of the sanction is a fairly primitive idea – however very widespread, even in our newspapers, and it is proposed as a mitigating factor for Burioni and his irritable colleagues -, as if we were proposing to Burioni to cure the covid with bloodletting. He would object, if it were all right, that science is not democratic.
The rules in a liberal democracy serve first of all to provide foundations for civil coexistence, to indicate for the best of all what can be done and what not, and the sanction is only a next step, and can never be – it is in dictatorship – the pure blackmail to be opposed to the dissenting: our fundamental law, the Constitution, establishes the moral and juridical principles that animate our country with some effort and great effectiveness, without providing for a single sanction. Those are delegated to the penal code, to somewhere else.
The case of compulsory vaccination is then splendidly of school. It is a rule that includes the sanction: if I don’t get vaccinated, I can’t go to work, I can’t go to the cinema, I can’t go to the gym, I can’t go to the restaurant, and the list would end in the morning. Asking Burioni to double or triple or ten times the fine means to have understood little of the law, to have understood little of the law, to have understood little of the pressures within companies, above all means not setting the goal of the result but that of punishing in the manner more ruthless, more spectacular, and more sterile, who we consider an obstacle to achieving the goal. It means baptizing the category of the enemies of the people. And this is not very democratic, in fact it is much less democratic than science is.
Source: Huffington Post Italy Athena2 by www.huffingtonpost.it.
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