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

  • From: "Mike Geary" <atlas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 7 Jun 2006 12:44:24 -0500

I read Taylor, at least in the first 2 chapters, as saying that modern human beings find identity in their value systems -- that, in fact, all human beings do and always have done so and can not escape doing so. Everyone thinks their value system is better than those that contract it or emphasize that other values as more desirable. Everyone thinks their value system promotes the good, otherwise they wouldn't adhere to it. Taylor acknowledges that value systems vary from culture to culture and to some degree between individuals within cultures , and sometimes even within the same individual at various times. I would think that the value systems of a scientist vs. a metaphysician would most be at variance only when it comes to epistemology, the scientist valuing deduction less highly than induction and from that some variances in social goals might follow. But surely each of their identities are so enmeshed in valuing intellectual activity that they would be almost identical. As to Heidegger, I've never thought of him as pushing certainty, rather as explaining why people are so certain of their worlds in the face of so many contrary interpretations. It's because, as I understand him to say, everyone is immersed in a world from birth, they are taught by their world how to interpret the world in such a way that their world is always reaffirmed -- true whether you're Hottentot or Skolenkinlot. . Worlds reaffirm themselves, not out of conspiracy, but because they are world -- there is no other world but world. I claim that apostasy is rare because fully 99.9% of the human race adopts (with very little adaptation) the values of their parents and immediate culture. There is that 1 %, of course, and to them we owe all change. I agree with Phil's observation that individuals living in cultures under stress tend to rally 'round the flag of cultural identity, not become expansive. But as Toynbee points out, every "cultural advance" comes at the death of some culture, so at some point a culture does surrender at least some of it's core values to adopt new ones and adapt to a new world and thus the world changes. Why do they surrender? That's what interests me. Oh, btw, John, my statistics are beyond question.

Mike Geary

----- Original Message ----- From: "John McCreery" <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Wednesday, June 07, 2006 8:17 AM
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: SoS-Chapter 2, Moral Frameworks

On 6/7/06, Mike Geary <atlas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Maybe I'm missing a lot, but I keep waiting for Taylor to say something new.
The framework, ie, the value system wherein or whereby we find our
self-identity is nothing more than the world we're born into -- or so I take
it. It seems no different than the Heideggerian always-already world from
which and in which and through which we interpret the world and ourselves.

Except for that modern predicament he keeps going on about, where we live in multiple worlds and live aware of many others, which tends to erode the certainty with which Mr. H's always-already world was imbued. Makes things damned uncomfortable if you start with the notion that you've got to be right or wrong absolutely.

I see Taylor struggling with the question, "Can a philosopher be a
scientist instead of a metaphysician?" where the terms were set for me
when I first read Nietzche as a freshman at Michigan State, the bit in
The Birth of the Tragedy and the Genealogy of Morals, where Nietzche
compares the scientist and the metaphysician to two men watching
Salome perform the dance of the seven veils. The scientist, says N, is
content to be tantilized as one veil after another is slowly lifted.
The metaphysician is the boor who keeps shouting, "Take it all off,

Apostasy is a rare occurrence among human beings.

Really? Change happens, and change starts nowhere else (unless, of course, it's little random variations and accidents of fate, the natural selection thing, you know).

That all human beings
work within a value system, usually the one given them by their immediate
culture, doesn't surprise me as it seems to surprise Taylor -- or maybe it
doesn't surprise him, maybe he's just making sure that we understand this
ground on which he builds his castle. Maybe he's going to get into the
question that interests me, how is change possible? What causes people to
shift their moral perspectives, even if ever so slightly. I suspect it's
good old pragmatism. We'll see.

Yes, I too am eager to get beyond the oh-so-careful prologomenizing and see what he does in the second part of the book.

Mike Geary Never sure I didn't miss something.

Hell, I'm always sure I've missed something.

Or as Rumsfeld would have it: I don't know what I don't know that I don't

Then again, there is Eleanor of Acquitaine's wonderful line in _A Lion in Winter_. She and her sons, the future Kings Richard and John, Geoffry who winds up only a Duke, and Philip of France are walking along a battlement. John asks, speaking of Henry Plantagenet, Eleanor's husband and her sons' father,

"Do you think he knows that we know that he knows that...."

to which Eleanor (played beautifully by Kathryn Hepburn) replies,

"We are a knowledgeable family."

There was a lady with a framework.


John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN

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