[lit-ideas] Re: The Neutrality of Meta-Ethics (Is: Anti-Humanism of Analytic Philosophy

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 18 Nov 2007 02:07:11 EST

Thanks to R. Paul for his judicious  remarks:
"I don't know what the footnote you supply  is a footnote to where it 
appeared. It appears unnecessarily pugnacious. Its  author has some straw men 
Well, yes, and perhaps Judith Baker (the posthumous  editor) could have left 
it out. Baker writes:
"The following remarks were included as an aside in the  manuscript of the 
lecture". The exact point where the footnote occurs is to the  text of the Paul 
Carus lecture that goes:
       "We would rather (she  [P. Foot] suggests,
        be able to  think of people as volunteers
        in moral  service, than be forced to think of 
        them as  the more Kantian position would
You are right about the straw man, Strawson, for he indeed  did write a 
treatise on Kant, but that was notably about his philosophy of  perception, 
than morals.
But I see your point that the type of analytic  philosophical 'ethical' 
criticism is of the traditional pattern one finds in  Plato: playing with 
sufficiency and necessity of definitions. Counterarguments  to utilitarianism, 
or for 
that matter, definitional considerations like the type  of G.E.Moore (Cambridge 
admitted) in Principia Ethica against Epicureanism,  non-
naturalism, or even 'naturalistic fallacy'. 
Perhaps P. H. Nowell-Smith comes closer to the standard  Oxonian model when 
he speaks in Ethics of having nothing to do with setting a  system to guide 
R. Paul mentions:

"in response to a talk Elizabeth  Anscombe gave on the BBC. Her claim was 
that Oxford moral  philosophy did not corrupt the youth, for it allowed them to 
do  whatever they wanted, and that was not the way to corrupt anybody." 
Interesting. That must be of the 3rd Programme BBC  Lectures, later edited by 
D. F. Pears for London: Macmillan. Controversial  though. For Solon, we hope, 
*NOT* to be able to lead the youth to the virtuous  life* but either **offer 
no guidance at all** like Anscombe thinks she is being  witty in doing, or is 
not, for all practical purposes, too different from  'corrupting' in the sense 
that she would have been made to drink the hemlock,  under Solon's laws.
The feeling was that it was "so cool" to do meta-ethical  analytic 
philosophy, since, "Oh, no, mama -- we are not discussing what You call  
ethics. The 
professor could care less. We deal with formulae, like conditional  commands !p 
--> p v q!, and whether 'may' is epistemically precondition in  'should' -- 
_so_ fun."
On the other hand, while Plato was witty enough to want  _that_ kind of 
analytic meta-ethic procedure,
(i) The case is not so simple with Aristotle. To say that  the virtuous man 
must chose the mediocre mean, hardly counts as meta-ethical to  me.
(ii) Less so meta-ethical to me look those 'Classical  Antiquity' moral 
theories alla Epicurean (Why The Garden?, and is there a way to  avoid 
reference to 
the man by saying, The Gardeners?), Stoics, Sceptics, and  Cynics, not to 
mention Peripatetics and Academians and Platonist (I distinguish  between the 
We had to wait for Ayer to realise that moral 'statements'  are hardly 
statements, and then for people like R. M. Hare with his Language of  Morals 
(published by Oxford, unlike the rather cheap _Ethics_ by Nowell-Smith,  which 
although undating it, was published by Penguin!) to take into serious  account, 
starters the very idea of the logical form of a moral claim (the  neustic, the 
phrastic, the clistic, the tropic -- and the rest of  it).
Austin was different, in that, while he was indeed Prof.  of Moral Philosophy 
until Hare took over, he was never _prepared_ to teach moral  philosophy and 
liked to play with things we do with words instead. The fly in  the fly bottle.
Anscombe was a disciple of Wittgenstein. Bartlett III says  that the 
anti-moral standpoint of Wittgenstein may be explained by his  homosexuality. 
(or is it Bartley?) says that as a homosexual,  Wittgenstein would realise 
that his patterns of behaviour would hardly be  universalizable in the Hare or 
Kantian view of the matter, and thus relativism  would be the only way out to 
self-justify his 'coordination of ends'. I disagree  with the construal, but 
see the point in it. 
With Oxford types, the question of homosexuality is less  obvious, and it's 
more like the serious *live and let live* which is typical of  a middle-class 
background of educated people that we are talking about. 
   Buenos Aires, Argentina

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