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

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 17 Nov 2007 22:56:48 EST

R. Paul takes side against my characterisation of R. M. Hare as  judging 
'anathema' the word 'moral'
 
>I find this remark very strange, especially as it 
>(possibly) relates to the author of the Language  of Morals
 
Well, yes. I grant that Hare _is_ special in that he is merely a  formal 
meta-ethical philosopher, and thus a formal ethical philosopher (a la  Kant). 
But 
if you read Language of Morals it's all about analysis of 'ought' and  'good' 
in connection with their 'formal' logical properties. No substance or  matter 
is provided. The meta-ethical movement was indeed initiated by the bete  noire 
of XXth century Oxford philosophy:
 
1949 A. J. AYER Philos. Ess. (1954) x. 246 
All moral theories..are neutral as regards actual conduct.  To speak 
technically, they belong to the field of meta-ethics, not ethics  proper.
 
From the time when Hare was published: 
 
1966 G. C.  KERNER Revol. in Ethical Theory ii. 70 
 
Meta-ethics is conceived to be a purely  theoretical and ethically neutral  
enterprise. 
 
1980 Mind  89 228 
A crucial condition of adequacy for meta-ethical  A cruciathe demand that 
they explain the speech  act potential of sentences containing moral  demais  
satisfied.
 
==== That was indeed the neutral climate in "Moral Philosophy" in Oxford in  
Grice's days. From this footnote I was referring to:
 
"The kind of moral (or more or less moral) DISTASTE to which Philippa Foot  
briefly alludes is one which I feel that, AS SOMEONE BROUGHT UP IN THE  
ENLIGHTENED 'PINKO' (at least on the SURFACE) atmosphere of Oxford, as it used  
to 
be, I understand very well."
 
"We are in reaction against our Victorian forebears; we are independent,  and 
we are tolerant of the independence of others, unless they go too far. We  
don't like discipline, rules (except for rules of games and rules designed to  
SECURE PEACE AND QUIET IN COLLEGES), SELF-CONSCIOUS AUTHORITY, and lectures on  
REPROACHES about conduct (which are usually INEFFECTIVE anyway, since those 
whom  they aresupposed to influence are usually either TOO SENSITIVE or not 
sensitive  enogh)."
 
"Above all, we dislike punishment, which only too often just plays in the  
hands of those who are ARROGANT and vindictive. We don't much care to talk 
about 
 'values' (pompous) or 'duties' (stuffy, unless one means the DUTIES OF 
SERVANTS  or the MILITARY, or money extorted by the customs people)."
 
"Our watchwords (if we could be moved to utter them) would be: 'Live and  let 
live, though not necessarily with me around, or 'If you don't like how I  
carry on, you don't have to spend time with me."
 
"With these underlying attitudes, it is not surprising that we don't find  
Kant congenial, and that we do very much like Strawson's "Freedom and  
Resentment".
 
Most of the other moral theories in Oxford at the time are similarly  
neutral: G. J. Warnock, The object of morality and Language and Morality, and 
S.  N. 
Hampshire. They were into prescriptivism, descriptivism, performativism, and  
standards of universalizability, but were hardly telling STUDENTS what they  
ought to do as people!

Talking of which, I went to see last weekend that silly film with  Robert 
Redford. He plays a university teacher who talks about morality in the  time of 
war. Unfortunately, two of his minority students (a Hispanic and an  
African-American) misunderstand all he says (Their Greek is not too good to  
follow the 
professor's _Republic_) and they eventually join the army and get  
gratitiously killed in Iran. There you have a SERIOUS MORAL TEACHER *went*  
wrong, but at 
least he tried. With Hare you can pass with an A+ without being  asked 
whether Nazism is wrong. 
 
Cheers,
 
JL
 
 
J. L. Speranza, Esq.  

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