[lit-ideas] Re: Reason and Politics

  • From: wokshevs@xxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 3 Nov 2006 17:21:08 -0330

Quoting Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>:

> 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.*

RP: 
> 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.
> 
W: Whichever spatial metaphor one prefers, the idea is basically the same:
rationality as a criterion of epistemic assessment cannot be equivalent to or
identical with actual practices of judging or knowing. While all validity
claims originate within some setting or other, I believe that this empirical
fact of origins is irrelevant to the epistemic matter of the justifiability of
claims made. In other words, the acceptance of a judgment or action as rational
is logically distinct from the matter of the epistemic worthiness of the
judgement or action to be accepted. (Acceptance is different from
acceptability.)

As I see it, the rationality of entire belief systems, vocabularies or systems
of governance must also be judged on independent criteria: i.e., logical
coherence, principles of autonomy, equality, universality, etc.. Systems
failing to accord by such criteria and principles are irrational (they
contradict the conditions necessary for their own possibility.) The empirically
given wants, needs, preferences that people are socialized into having, bear no
necessary epistemic value to the validity of the belief system in which those
wants, etc. have originated. Whether our wants are worthy of being wanted
(Kant), or whether we actually should want what we find ourselves wanting
(Chuck Taylor)are relevant epistemic matters in determining validity.

This should keep RP in the loop for another while at least.  :-)

Walter C. Okshevsky
MUN

> 
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