Quietists aim to bring something to rest, to move it from activity to quiescence. This essay depicts and advocates a quietism of political interest, which is to say a divorce of political action from interest in the outcome of such action. Its principal interlocutor is Pascal, whose 1657 letter to Périer argues, on theological and epistemological grounds, for exactly such a separation. The essay argues that a quietism of political interest has several advantages over ordinary consequentialist political advocacy and action, the most important among which is that the former can acknowledge that in a complex political system we are ordinarily unable to predict the results of enacting what we advocate, while the latter must occlude that fact. Quietists of political interest must replace concern with outcome by something else as a motive or cause for political advocacy and action; and while there are many possibilities here, in the West the only lively form of such quietism has been Christian-theological, in which political advocacy and action are, ideal-typically and sometimes actually, undertaken under the threefold assumption that: (1) advocacy of a political proposal assumes that justice in the political sphere is not attainable but must nonetheless be sought; (2) advocacy of a political proposal assumes that while Christian advocates can act unjustly, they cannot suffer injustice; and (3) advocacy of a political proposal proceeds always without concern for the outcome.
Paul J. Griffiths; THE QUIETUS OF POLITICAL INTEREST. Common Knowledge 1 January 2009; 15 (1): 7–22. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-2008-039
Download citation file: