[lit-ideas] Re: Justifying Moral Principles?

  • From: Mike Geary <jejunejesuit.geary2@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2015 12:58:56 -0600

Being rather ethnocentric myself, I confess that I'm not familiar enough
with the history of Yugoslavia either long ago or yesterday, such that I
can comment on Omar's remark about what was at stake in Yugoslavia around
1990, nor competent to comment on how it was resolved, apparently not to
Omar's liking.  Nevertheless, my ignorance has never kept me from voicing
my astute observations.  Phil Enns fills in his opinion (which is in
agreement with Rority -- with whom I too travel) with a quote from Stanley
Fish: "Politics, interest, partisan conviction, and belief are the
locations of morality  ("morality" seems a bit too parochial a term to
me,but what the hell, It's the melody, not the lyrics that make the song)
that it is in and through them that one's sense of justice and the good
lives and is put into action."  This was offered in response to Walter's
cry for some justification for: "Categorical Imperative, Principle of Equal
Respect for Persons, The Original Position, Principle of Discourse, etc...
etc.."  Now, unless I misconstrue Fish-Enns' meaning, I would construe that
my soul-source -- "culture" --  is far and away the better answer.  We are
simply our culture which includes all our behaviours which spring from the
beliefs handed to us by our culture.  It is only when we see that the
cultural way of thinking and/or doing isn't quite working that we either go
to war or begin to question our beliefs, values, traditions and make little
teeny-tiny adjustments (or total revolution).  Everything is culture.  Even
the method and manner and degree of cultural change.  Damn, I should have
been a sociologist.  But what do they know of poetry?  By the same token
what the hell do I know?  Here's one from moi:

If ifs were ares
I'd own forty cars,
But I'm just a lonesome
Cowboy.
So this is what I'm going to do,
Saddle up my horse
And say "tootle-loo."

On Mon, Feb 23, 2015 at 8:29 AM, Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> The idea that people should be as ethnocentric and partisan as possible
> and that the clash of radically defined opposing interests will somehow
> work out for the best was rather widespread in the former Yugoslavia some
> time around 1990. The things did work out eventually, but arguably not for
> the best.
>
> O.K.
>
> On Sat, Feb 21, 2015 at 3:42 PM, Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>
>> Walter O. wrote:
>>
>> "We justify our judgements and actions through the giving and assessing
>> of reasons.  In doing so, we appeal to one or more moral principles for
>> purposes of securing satisfactory levels of impartiality and objectivity.
>> But can the principles themselves be justified? Could Rorty"s
>> "ethnocentrism" really be the last word on the subject?  On that
>> meta-ethical view, any attempt to justify a moral scheme or "vocabulary"
>> would prove to be question-begging since the justification would have to
>> appeal to principles, norms and criteria internal to its own vocabulary. So
>> how then do we justify the Categorical Imperative, Principle of Equal
>> Respect for Persons, The Original Position, Principle of Discourse, etc..
>> Are these really but articles of political faith?"
>>
>>
>> I don't find Rorty's position as problematic as Walter does, for two
>> different reasons. First, for Rorty, the ethnocentrism really kicks in only
>> when public debate reaches an impasse, and we are only left with
>> acknowledging that these are the beliefs that 'we' hold. It seems to me
>> that this is similar to the situation that leads Kant to acknowledge the
>> fundamental asocial sociability of human beings, in 'Idea for a Universal
>> History', or that nature separates people, in 'Perpetual Peace'. In the
>> end, there can be no Utopia or World government because there are just too
>> many differences for there to be a single set of laws. For Rorty,
>> ultimately, we are bound to our particular histories, but falling back on
>> this particularity is what should happen only when public reasoning has
>> gone as far as it can.
>>
>> Second, the list that Walter gives, i.e. Categorical Imperative,
>> Principle of Equal Respect for Persons, etc., require judgment, and I would
>> prefer that judgment ultimately come under politics. For Kant, judgment is
>> the activity of putting experience under universal rules or laws, so with
>> the CI, we evaluate specific activities by deriving maxims of action from
>> them and attempting to make them universal laws. Because this activity
>> always requires judgment, that is, how the particular comes under the
>> universal, there will always be the problem of how to overcome differences.
>> Kant recognizes that nature divides people, and the one way nature divides
>> is in giving people different interests and goals. So, while in a very
>> Hobbesian fashion, Kant urges people to pursue their interests in as
>> selfish, in other words rational, manner as possible, the reconciliation of
>> differences between people will require a political solution. This
>> political solution will bring about an equilibrium of competing forces and
>> interests, most likely established through a 'spirit of commerce', and most
>> likely in the formation of a Republic. I realize that Walter will not be
>> happy with this, but what comes to mind is a quote from Stanley Fish:
>> 'Politics, interest, partisan conviction, and belief are the locations of
>> morality. It is in and through them that one's sense of justice and the
>> good lives and is put into action.'
>>
>> In short, yes, I am quite happy with Walter's list being articles of
>> political faith and I see this as very much being within the vision Kant
>> outlines for his hope for a peaceful future.
>>
>>
>> Sincerely,
>>
>> Phil
>>
>>
>

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