[lit-ideas] Re: Malt, Coffee & Chuck Taylor (shortisher)

  • From: wokshevs@xxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 27 Jun 2006 18:26:17 -0230

I had thought that the fallacy of ad hominem consisted in the illegitimate
attempt to discredit an argument by appeal to some characteristic of *the
individual* making that argument, rather than to the validity and soundness of
the argument itself. John seems to read the fallacy to refer to some
characteristic shared by all members of the human species that would disqualify
the soundness of an argument presented by a representative of that species.
John may have come up with a new informal fallacy: argumentum ad species? ("You
believe that because you're human." Consider the alternative.)

Regarding specification of a maxim: The factors John identifies below, factors I
purportedly "artfully ignore," are of course all possibly relevant to the
identification of a maxim and the assessment of its moral
permissibility/impermissibility. I do not dispute that. I dealt with a much
simpler yet still quite realistic case in order to address points made by RP -
considerations which did not, in my mind, require a more comprehensive
articulation of the maxim in question than the one I provided. Is some aspect
of Kant's moral theory falsified or rendered unsound in some way once a maxim
is more fully articulated/specified?

Walter C. Okshevsky
Memorial University

Quoting John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>:

> 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.
> 
> John
> 
> >
> > 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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