[lit-ideas] Re: Reason and Politics

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2006 16:08:56 -0800

Walter writes:

*Steve's post...does clarify a great deal. A first thought is that the issue of
imposing values and principles on people is different from the matter of
educating people into a life of rational autonomy, and different too, though
less so, from the matter of justifying the universal validity of a moral
framework or form of government. I'm only interested in the latter issue here.*

I'll just note that I have no idea what's meant by 'validity' here, and pass on
to my main point, which is that Walter seems to have a conception of
rationality as something standing over (beside, beneath?) any particular
setting in which beliefs and actions are judged rational or not. I would have
thought that nothing --belief, belief system, or act--was rational tout court,
and that only given a particular background, someone's beliefs and desires,
e.g., is a course of action 'rational.' This is easy to see in the case of
actions, perhaps harder to see when it comes to 'belief systems,' conceptual
schemes, forms of government, and so on. To try to justify as rational a
particular form of government, in the absence of any knowledge of what those
thinking about adopting or maintaining it want seems to me not just
practically, but logically futile.

Robert Paul
Reed College

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