[lit-ideas] Re: SoS-Chapter 2, Moral Frameworks

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 07 Jun 2006 15:55:55 -0700

John Wager wrote:

'The move that Taylor needs to make next is to go from what people, from their limited perspectives (whether of the food they eat, or the religions [plural, except for the 'people of the book'] they affirm), to some more global, universal perspective. "The many do not give the same answer as the wise" (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics). What is there behind what people "like" that makes it "good" for them? What is it that Taylor will come up with that lets him get at this more universal "good?" '

Weren't Plato and Aristotle the first to argue that what one 'likes' is almost entirely independent of the good (and not just of 'the Good but of what was good for one)? I hope that Taylor isn't going to suggest that what I'll call 'mere likes' (a preference for gin over Scotch, or for tulips over daffodils) are what make up one's 'goods.' It seems unlikely that such a shallow conception of the goods which constitute oneself would be a starting point for discussing the slippery notion of 'the self.' So, I think John's asking just the right question: how do we get from a motley of possibly shifting likes and dislikes to anything like 'a good'?

Agreement and disagreement about likes and dislikes at this level can certainly go on within a 'group' (culture?) without this genuinely creating interesting or cohesive subgroups, one would think. The ubiquity of Coca-Cola is different in a way that might be hard to articulate from the spread of a religion—but what prevents a liking for Coke an important part of who one is or the frame from which one views the world (and by reflection?) oneself?

So far, I'm not sure how Taylor distinguishes between what I think is good (health), what I value (privacy), what I like (ice cream). One can always construct sentences ('I like democracy'), in which these differences seem to disappear. But at some metaphysical level (as we like to say) they ought to be different if this project is to go anywhere.

Robert Paul
Reed College

Robert Paul
Reed College
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