[lit-ideas] Re: Socratic Congress

  • From: "Walter C. Okshevsky" <wokshevs@xxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 20 Jun 2009 18:58:06 -0230

I'm not quite sure on the scope of the agreement here between Robert and
Kant was quite clear in his view that all rational agents can recognize what
their obligations are to others and themselves. We all, this is to say, have
the capacity to do the morally right thing. (Whether we have cultivated the
disposition to actually *act* on such recognition is a different story, as is
the question of whether we do the right thing for the right reason, from the
right motive. As such, Kant's views on the will (Wilkur) are somewhat more
miserly in their democratic allowances. 

To expand:  I doubt that Kant believed that we all can justify what we take to
be morally right judgement and action (maxims) in epistemically required terms.
The 4 features of moral impermissibility require instruction and practise, and
Kant was quite clear that the path towards a good will - ie., one that assesses
its maxims via universalizability - cannot be successfully travelled unaided. 

So on my reading of Kant, acting and willing in accordance with the right is to
be differentiated from acting and willing performed from obligations endorsed
as reasons for judgement and action. On this account, the bare
assertion, belief or intuition that a course of action is right or wrong does
not in itself constitute grounds of justification and, as such, is not
representative of genuine moral worth. Moreover, to privilege certain
assertions, beliefs or intuitions as being epistemically criterial within moral
deliberation and judgement, without argument, as Robert does, is not a
defensible posture to take. 

But it should be said that Robert's views are very much in keeping with an
Aristotelian conception of morality that privileges the norms and principles of
one's own polis and habitus on criteria of "the good life," "the authentic
life," "the virtuous life." And this has definite value to be sure. The
specific kind of value involved must remain a topic for another occasion,
should anyone be interested.

Walter O

P.S. Chto znachet "pons asinorum"? 

Quoting Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>:

> Walter writes [I ignore many things of interest for the time being]
> > Bracketing Robert's more rhetorical and less considered recent
> formulations,
> > his
> > metaethic maintains that the question of whether it is ever morally
> > permissible, perhaps even morally required, to torture the innocent is a
> > question raised only by one who fails to understand the nature of morality.
> Let
> > it not go unrecognized that I agree with him. 
> My 'formulations' were as considered as can be. I could perhaps consider 
> them more, but anyone who understands plain English (as I'm sure Walter 
> does) should understand them. ('Plain English,' is a rhetorical idiom,
> I grant.) I accept with thanks Walter's agreement with the my central 
> claim.
> > But I see the need to take the extra philosophical step and confront the
> > question of WHY this is the case. After
> > all, just because I speak French grammatically correctly (!) and am quite
> > competent at intuitively recognizing grammatically correct and incorrect
> > formulations in French, doesn't mean I have an explicit, systematic and
> > comprehensive understanding of the syntactical rules governing correct
> > grammatical utterances in French. 
> True enough. As an undergraduate, Russian was my pons asinorum, and no 
> doubt part of that came from my innocence of most grammatical rules, no 
> matter which language they pertained to. I was terrified by English 
> Frank X. Braun's English Grammar for Language Students?I felt like Wile 
> E. Coyote suddenly aware of the abyss. What this meant though was that
> I had been speaking and writing English for some time without having 
> been aware of its ghostly underpinnings, and, more to the point, I would 
> have gone on speaking and writing English, never parting a preposition 
> or vandalizing a verb, for the rest of my life without having such 
> awareness.
> I enthusiastically second Walter's reminder that one's having the 
> ability to speak and write a language (well) does not entail that one 
> knows 'the syntactical rules governing correct grammatical utterances' 
> in that language. And, in accepting it, I might suggest that this in 
> fact, supports my point re the peasants vs. Kant.
> Of course, people come to blows over grammar and syntax everyday. But 
> that's another story.
> Robert Paul
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