I have been following with great delight Walter and Robert's dissection of Kant. It is always a pleasure to watch professionals in action. But amateur as I am, I feel bit uncomfortable with the statement appended below. Here it seems to me that the philosopher makes one of those sudden descents from elevated analysis to idealistic ad hominem that is likely to discredit the whole business. Asking why the analysis might strike one as silly, he appeals to a character flaw, euphemistically described as a "human tendency." At the same time he artfully ignores such material considerations as (a) does the flower picker own the meadow and have every right in the world to pick the flowers in question, especially since she herself had scattered the seed earlier in the year or (b) does she know full well that the flower in question is not a rare species growing in a highly trafficked park where if everyone who passed by plucked a flower all the flowers would soon be gone but instead a common variety located in a rarely visited meadow that she herself took several hours of hiking to reach and, thus, that plucking a flower or two for her pleasure will have no perceptible effect on the meadow or its ecology? Instead, we are asked to imagine a hypothetical meadow with flowers conceived as a collection of points in a zero-sum game, so that picking even one is a small but significant step toward total degradation, giving no thought to anything else. Now that does seem silly.
The reason why so much of this analysis might strike one as just plain silly is because our very human tendency to think "Oh come on, one (bunch) of flowers isn't going to harm anyone/anybody." Or: "What a beautiful meadow; I know I shouldn't really disturb its pristine wonder, but perhaps only this once and this is such an isolated place that surely there won't be many more people coming by to pick flowers." That is precisely the structure of the kind of illegitimate self-exemption Kant's CI-procedure intends to identify. "After all, there is nobody in the world just like me; I'm special; my interests and desires are thus privileged. I have a right to be a free-rider. And even if I don't, who cares?" (This attitude will be part of the "Coming World Crisis.")
-- John McCreery The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
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