[lit-ideas] Re: Justifying Moral Principles?

  • From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2015 20:55:50 +0100

If I were rich enough to spend one weekend in Monte Carlo and the next one
in Hawai, I think I wouldn't worry about 'my culture' too much. As it is,
'my culture' is all I have, so I identify with it. I don't know how to
define it and I'd be hard pressed to list its virtues, but I am sure that
there must be some.

On Mon, Feb 23, 2015 at 7:58 PM, Mike Geary <jejunejesuit.geary2@xxxxxxxxx>

> 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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