[lit-ideas] Re: A gift to the List on this Christmas Day

  • From: wokshevs@xxxxxx
  • To: wokshevs@xxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 26 Dec 2008 18:09:37 -0330

Well, OK, just one more niggling comment while the turkey leftovers are noch
Begriff, as George Bill Fred Hegel was wont to say (It really doesn't sound the
same in English, does it.)

My Education students - more often the graduate rather than the undergraduate
ones - often complain that K is somewhat confused about universalizability
because while on the one hand he claims that consequences of following a maxim
are of no moral worth and are irrelevant to the moral status of a maxim or
principle, on the other, as Onora appears to make clear below, consequences of
maxims based on a principle of indifference and neglect are clearly identified
and appear operational in the analyses of maxims and principles, as well as the
conclusions thereby arrived. 

The complaint is understandable, and is made by many K commentators - even by
such illustrious educational philosophers as Ken Strike and Jonas Soltis in
their *The ethics of teaching*. But I believe the criticism is ultimately
otiose. (Did Mill make that criticism as well?)

Consider K's reasoning in the lying promise example in the Groundwork. The
is morally permissible because, in part, in a world in which all acted on that
maxim, nobody could act on that maxim. Some agents must remain truthful simply
to provide the element of trust as the necessary condition for the possibility
of successfully making lying promises. 

But this is not a case of
consequentialist reasoning, by my lights. One who recognizes an obligation to
refrain from acting on such a maxim, on K's sense of "obligation," doesn't so
refrain because she is concerned about the conseqences of acting on the maxim.
The insight into the moral impermissibility of the maxim consists in the
recognition that deception for purposes of self-interest is *intrinsically*
wrong. And it is that recognition that individuates "the good will" from other
forms of willing that also produce "good" results but are intrinsically devoid
of moral worth. Moreover, the "consequences" that the morally virtuous agent
entertains in deliberating upon the moral status of the maxim are not empirical
results or effects of having everybody act on that maxim. This because everybody
cannot act on the maxim and THAT is precisely the point. 

The manuscript ends here in virtue of wafting leftover turkey aromas descending
into the downstairs computer room. (Yes, we also have one upstairs because we
have a 22 yr. old living with us in the house. Actually we have two upstairs
but that is a long story ...)

Walter O
Swivelling Chair
Dad's Downstairs Computer Room

Quoting wokshevs@xxxxxx:

> And one from me via Onora on why being a Scrooge is not universalizable:
> "Those who make indifference or neglect [of others] an inclusive principle
> are
> committed not to help or to care for any others within the domain of ethical
> consideration to which they are committed. They could think of their
> principles
> of indifference and neglect as universalizable only if indifference and
> neglect
> could be inclusive principles for all. Yet no vulnerable agent can
> coherently
> accept that indifference and neglect should be universalized, for if they
> were
> nobody could rely on others' help; joint projects would tend to fail;
> vulnerable characters would be undermined; capacities and capabilities that
> need assistance and nurturing would not emerge; personal relationships would
> wither; education and cultural life would decline. It follows that those
> with
> plans and projects, even of the most minimal sort, cannot regard
> indifference
> and neglect as universalizable."
> Onora O'Neill, *Towards justice and virtue: a constructive account of
> practical
> reasoning*, p.194
> Just a niggling remark. Onora incorrectly writes "should be universalized"
> in
> her third sentence. She of course wants: "could be universalized." Her final
> sentence has "cannot regard" as it should be. From the "cannot" of the
> conclusion, which establishes the non-universalizability of maxims of
> neglect
> and indifference, we may validly conclude that human agents indeed should
> not
> (better: "ought not") regard such maxims as morally permissible.
> May comfort and joy accompany all your T and sub-lunary acts of turkey,
> Glenlivet and nurturing your own and others' talents. 
> (But just remember: "No good deed goes unpunished.")
> Thus endeth the lesson.
> Cheers, Walter
> Quoting Judith Evans <judith.evans001@xxxxxxxxxxxx>:
> > Thank you, Mike.  And a Happy Boxing Day to all
> > 
> > Judy Evans, Cardiff, UK
> > 
> > ----- Original Message ----- 
> > From: "Mike Geary" <atlas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> > To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> > Sent: Thursday, December 25, 2008 8:48 PM
> > Subject: [lit-ideas] A gift to the List on this Christmas Day
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> >                                   
> >                             -- by Mary Oliver
> > 
> > 
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