[lit-ideas] Re: On linguistic and genetic uncertainty

  • From: "Walter C. Okshevsky" <wokshevs@xxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 22 Jun 2014 14:44:39 -0230

I find the view that, at the end of the day, when the spades are turned, all we
can do is go with the maxim "You show me yours and I'll show you mine" displays
a very  sceptical (indeed almost cynical) view of the rationality of moral
judgement, and of the possibilities for agreement amongst competing conceptions
of the good/authentic life in multiculturally pluralist democracies. 

Rorty whole-heartedly supported this kind of incommensurability in his notion of
"final vocabulary" and suggested we just be unabashedly "ethnocentric" about our
fundamental commitments since no non-circular justification of such founding
commitments is possible. He took Habermas, in particular, to task for
maintaining a universalism on epistemic principles and conditions of
discourse/argument. Habermas replied in part by pointing out that any position
on the justifiability (or not) of judgement must itself claim impartiality,
necessity and objectivity (universality) in order to be a sensible and cogent
position on the matter. The agreement Rorty seeks on the justifiability of his
ethnocentrism must be intended as agreement by a universal audience. (Vide
Kant's distinction between "public reason" and "private reason" in "What is

Ca voulait dire, Rorty's espousal of ethnocentrism displays performative
self-contradiction, for what it explicitly says is contradicted by what it
shows in the saying (and *must* show in the saying for the saying to say what
it's saying). Any position that cannot be expressed without contradicting
itself, performatively or logically, is not a rational position to maintain,
and cannot serve as the basis of a Republic of Ends in which members'
self-legislated maxims are governed by reciprocity in universalization.

Just talkin'

Walter O

Quoting Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxx>:

> Walter writes:
> "I would submit that Witters had a tad too many wee drams of the good stuff
> before saying his saying/showing distinction."
> "Ethics so far as it springs from the desire to say something about the
> ultimate meaning of life, the absolute good, the absolute valuable, can be
> no science." - Wittgenstein 'A Lecture on Ethics'
> If I may differ from my colleague from the Rock, the say/show distinction
> strikes me as being quite useful, particularly when it comes to ethics and
> aesthetics. In order for ethics to get off the ground, even for the Master
> of Koenigsberg, we require ethical intuitions. These ethical intuitions
> both identify what might be considered as a matter of ethical concern, and
> provide the stuff for ethical deliberation. Some people see the eating of
> animal flesh as a matter of ethical concern, while others are indifferent.
> One can, of course, give arguments for and against the eating of animal
> flesh, but eventually the debate will come down to the shrug of one's
> shoulders and the statement that, well, that is just how one sees things.
> At a certain point, the best we can do is show our ethical commitments and
> judgments, because these commitments and judgments reflect our attitudes or
> orientations towards life, the Good, everything that matters to us, We can
> talk about how these attitudes or orientations manifest themselves in
> particular ways in our lives, but since they address, as it were, the
> whole, they cannot themselves, be things beside other things in the world.
> It seems to me that the same is true of the beautiful.
> Sincerely,
> Phil

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