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

  • From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 7 Jun 2006 09:39:43 -0700 (PDT)

--- Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Omar Kusturica wrote:
> "In places where social conditions, regimes,
> ideologies, borders, even
> states change more frequently, it is much more
> difficult to locate that
> stable framework within which you were formed and
> within which you
> happily take stances on things. (Not to mention that
> Taylor' terms sound
> very academic; most people define themselves through
> subjective
> preferences, i.e. what I like and what I don't like,
> rather than "what
> is good, what I endorse and what I oppose" and so
> on) The things are
> further complicated if you have changed several
> geographical locations."
> My experience has been quite the opposite.  What I
> have seen is that
> when people experience massive upheaval, the first
> things to go are
> 'what I like and don't like' and what endures are
> exactly the sorts of
> things Taylor talks about.  What I saw was people
> holding on dearly to
> tribal/national/familial/religious 'frameworks' as
> ways of helping
> orient themselves in chaotic times.  What about in
> the former
> Yugoslavia?  What would be more important, being
> Croat or Serb, or
> Orthodox or Muslim, or liking coffee or tea? 
> Ultimately Taylor comes up
> short, but with the point that people rely on
> accounts of the good, he
> is spot on.

*There is a few issues here. First,  I haven't read
Taylor's book and I don't know what Taylor is talking
about beyond a few passages that were quoted here and
a couple of reviews that I haven't seen. But I am also
not sure how being Croat or Serb or (Bosnian or
Yugoslav) Muslim gets to be opposed  to the subjective
preferences for coffee or tea. These former identities
are also subjective, especially in the context of the
former Yugoslavia where everybody was educated and
ideologically formed on more or less the same
socialist /secular/ cosmopolitan grounds. It may be
true that in times of crises and danger people tend to
cling back to national/familial/religious 'frameworks'
(I omit 'tribal' as being pretty irrelevant to the
context), but this is due to subjective and pragmatic
considerations rather than the firmly held belief that
the sectarian accounts of what is right and what is
wrong are objectively true. 

As to the purely subjective preferences for this or
that food or drink, if you come spend some time in
China you will find that people who want to get to
know you often ask questions such as: "which food do
you like ?" or "what do you like to drink?" It seems
that in Chinese culture such subjective preferences
are considered an important component of personal
identity. (Although, of course, not as important as
family and nation.) When Taylor solemnly speaks about
endorsing or opposing things, I doubt that he has such
trivial preferences in mind.

Your objection seems to focus on the remark I placed
in the brackets, but one of my points was that people
are not exhaustively defined by the
physical/political/cultural space they happen to
currently inhabit. If you think, for example, that my
sympathies for Islam spring solely from the fact that
I was growing up in the former Yugoslavia, you will be
off the mark. The Bosnian Muslim identity (to the
extent it exists) is national rather than religious,
and most Bosnian Muslims feel little connection to
Islam worlwide. My current opinions on issues like
Islamism, Zionism and the like are more motivated by
the experience of living in Israel.

Not sure if this answers your objection, but then I am
not too sure what the objection was. We can continue
this discussion tomorrow.


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