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Avital Ronell
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2014 3:27 am    Post subject: Exclusionary Operations por favor Reply with quote

My text has suffered exclusion, from not one but several mainstream venues. Lament rules the day.

For instance, this post was censored on Philosophy Forums, for its 'poor quality,' is that so? Have we written too swinishly? The naivete of arrogance! Wonderful. Rhetorical finesse is lacking, 'poor quality!'

It is a very simple thing, and nothing to become conceited about, but 'poor quality'?, goodness! Naturally I flatter myself by mentioning that proper philosophers are as rare as they are marginal!

The article in question is this one, bellow, although sanctimonious pizzazz is common in the newspaper discourse, I'm so sorry, but it is a very necessary question that I put, but is it in good taste? Can it be done in the circumstances of the newspaper discourse, O, it makes people wince! Do they go so far as to become indignant over serious examinations? Surely! One grows weary of the childish, and we must begin to become more like children in our seriousness; in our lack of concern with the character of the far-more-squeamish ones than ourselves.

Today, there are only scholars, and no philosophers, teachers of English literature, but no writers. Let us not overlook the primary matter, in the overlay of glibness and brashness, let us look.

I know, I am compensating for the slap in the face serviced upon us by several censors, by over playing it, but it is something we must ask, nicht?

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c0eb2cae-6a9b-11e4-a038-00144feabdc0.html

-----

The Martin Amis s of This World, and Newspaper Talk

I’m mystified as to what it means that Hitler was unexplainable, inexplicable. His plan of Lebensraum seems more or less the same as Manifest Destiny. Only he lost.

Is it plausible to call utilitarian ethics irrational, how do we know that?

Supposing rationality means good, doesn't it mean people that follow a plan of logical utilitarian ethics, for micro-example, the Trolley Cart problem, are rational?

So why do the Amis s think Hitler and his buddies are irrational? Because they are emotional, because hate is emotion? The Amis s are Atheists so where do they get that hate of emotion from? Or that discrediting of emotion, I would have thought they would find emotion the most credible and rational explanation of life.

The Amis s say there is no god, or that one must be agnostic about it only because of the lack or impossibility of proving a negative. What can that mean except that there is no moral good? If nature is not good, ie, rational, that means the same as there is no god, but instead nothing. And the liberation we common folks feel at that leads us to make our own morality, or values. But what is their rationality based on according to the Amis s? On nature being good? How do they know?

I’m mega-mystified as to what the Amis s think they mean by rationality. Can it mean anything but utility for the common mass of us volk? Oh the aimlessness, the Aimis s: the infants!

I know some of you guys have been deeply delving into matters of good and evil, so what is the deal, are the Amis s of this world satisfied with mere blather, or have they some merit, hidden from me in a pool of shade?
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Bryan Carr



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2014 5:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Having not read the Amis lit to which you are responding, I cannot address the particulars, unless you are thinking of Amis' remark which I read in the Telegraph, to wit: "No one understands Hitler." As regards the Final Solution, I am inclined to suspect that we do not want to understand, which is something different. As regards H's sexual proclivities -- or Amis' imagination of such -- I am sorry, but am I supposed to care? This is supposed to somehow unriddle the inexplicable for us?

But you ask about your writing. "Poorly written," they said? Really? I don't always find your posts immediately obvious, but i don't expect to grasp philosophy at first glance. You have a couple of sentences in which you use commas in semi-unconventional (though hardly unheard-of) ways (e.g., substituting for a question mark) --
Quote:
Is it plausible to call utilitarian ethics irrational, how do we know that?
-- but really, I can't see what stylistic objections the editors can possibly have. As to "bad taste" -- for God's sake, if the "Trolley problem" can be dispassionately discussed (or Hitler's sex life), this surely cannot be the criterion in question. I sometimes agree that there are no philosophers, only scholars (didn't Strauss say something close to this?) but on other days I am more sanguine and tend to restrict my pessimism to Academe.
Great thinkers, on the scale of Plato or Maimonides or Levinas, are doubtless rare. But lovers of wisdom... I am glad to say, even I have known a few of them.
Good luck, Avital.

--B.

PS. I think I provisionally agree with you about morality, rationality, and God. (If I understand you here.) Of course, I do not believe that "all is permitted." Ergo...
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Avital Ronell
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2014 6:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

‘PS. I think I provisionally agree with you about morality, rationality, and God. (If I understand you here.) Of course, I do not believe that "all is permitted." Ergo…’

This is the exact perfidious position that I am concerned with, and that I find inadmissible. It infantilizes the whole of the Northern Atlantic world. I use the plural advisedly, Amis s. Some form of this view is almost universal amongst us.

I would say ‘all is permitted’ says exactly the same thing as there is no morality (god, rationality). So you seem to say: like the atheists, I too believe there is no morality, but I do not believe that there is no morality. A manifest contradiction.

Now, is it a matter of parsing the subtleties? (here, I am very aware of numerous advanced theoretical discussions, on the other hand many of them have the sternest answer in the practical difficulty of getting the content of our laws: if not, if eg an 'autonomist' state or a state of innerly vouchsafed laws is to be found, that would require a great clarification) Have you simply overlooked this, or is there another issue, connected to the 'infinity is close to transcendence' of Levinas, or the revivification of the sophists, of them who have no truth with Derrida? (somewhere in here, we might fruitfully pick up a dialogical exchange, starting with this or that question, and then sticking to it in the manner of Plato)

To get at the issue more closely, consider, lions tigers and bears, do they have morality? Or is the 'everything permitted' somehow not applicable to them?

The practical issue could be stated: if there is no (true) law, then it follows that there is no crime. Who supplies the content of the laws? Levinas, or as the Steven Pinkers almost admit that they tacitly believe, MLK? Isn’t it that that only works for the believers; many people don’t like those guys, MLK was in fact slain. If we persist with that won’t we have to admit that we have gone back to a religious vouchsafe for our goodness?

--

Notes on the rest:

Yes. With the ‘final solution’ one must see two considerations. One, it was based on successful antecedent practice, the extermination of the Armenians in Turkey, of which Hitler spoke in his prison book. And, even if that were not so, and the reason there given not very sensible, so long as we allow that an ‘evil mind’ can be sensible, i.e., merely looking to efficaciousness, or as the Romans said, expedience, one might also say that despite the Aimis s, I give the name in plural for it is not his view but that of a great many that interests me, it does seem that Darwin was no joke at all, and if he is taken seriously, cleaning racial stock must be a very sensible thing (that is, even if that particular strategy were wrongheaded, in principle the idea is biologically sound). I find it absolutely impossible to censor that science that loses politically, to name it pseudoscience, simply because it makes one indignant; that exclusion is not part of sciences at all; it violates the spirit of science. It is a no-saying, a yes-saying, and not a totalizing. It leads us to infantilize ourselves in the manner of the Amis s.

“there are no philosophers, only scholars (didn't Strauss say something close to this?)”

If he did it would be of great interest to all of us who are thoughtful. I hope you have something you can point to, something that stimulated you to this view. As it stands, like us, Strauss surely was conversant with the Kantian distinction between philosophers and those who do philosophy. And then the Nietzschean idea of personal philosophy, from which we gather that the philosopher in the true sense will be found only with those to come, those who ‘create’ values (I mean, the individualism of simply saying, this is my reading, my Socrates, is not sufficient), will be philosophers.

Without further evidence I must assume he was honest and meant what he said of Heidegger (given in loose paraphrase): this is the only great philosopher of our age. The issue may be simply that people assign to Strauss his explications of the great thinkers he reads. That is common and problematic.

Heidegger called Nietzsche the last philosopher. But that has to do with the view about the end of metaphysics in the correct calulative idealism of the mathematical nature of the natural sciences.
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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2014 9:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bryan - trolley problem: It's a good topic of discussion but do you think any conclusion reached would be useful for a real life situation?
Pete
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Avital Ronell
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 24, 2014 2:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Bryan - trolley problem: It's a good topic of discussion but do you think any conclusion reached would be useful for a real life situation?
Pete”

That is very wise. The Trolley problem is quite artificial, but if we listen to Aristotle, and so do not mechanically insert the fallacy about genetics, about the source of the argument, we will notice (using our noses) that it comes out of the real experience of the second great war.

So what it alludes to is utilitarian ethics. Then the problem in its widest real-world sense is this: If my precept is do the most good for the greatest number, and the least harm, do I extend that to include also animals, also plants. It becomes impossible, and with science there is no longer a human being, except by convention.

So the practical situation we are lead to is that there are N number of utilitarian ethics, the Nazi and Bolshevik being two species of that indefinite prototype. Who decides which utilitarian ethics in a value free times? However, the situation is not like that, for we have values (as distinguished from scientific facts), but they are passed off as good, as rational, yet they are only values. That is the unmovable object that troubles us to write.

We are offered no remedy, no unitary and unified guidance. This is the most pressing question for political philosophy in our time, it is a catastrophe. It means that the North Atlantic world is crushed in the war of 'heart and mind', bankrupt.
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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Mon Nov 24, 2014 7:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

<<So what it alludes to is utilitarian ethics. Then the problem in its widest real-world sense is this: If my precept is do the most good for the greatest number, and the least harm, do I extend that to include also animals, also plants. It becomes impossible, and with science there is no longer a human being, except by convention.>>

I agree, but all that could be worked out for you on the spot by an app. That by the way was a genuine response of a student, and that is what ethics is up against today.
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Avital Ronell
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 24, 2014 9:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's very brisk. But is it true?

In principle, if you start by setting all the limits you could then automatize. But if even the limits were set arbitrarily that would not deserve to be called ethics. That would simply be an instruction-giving machine.

A real example is psychiatry & clinical psychology, someone starts by defining brains that don't function in a given society as faulty (rather than blaming the society for instance, or placing no blame on the different brains). In the same way that we could start by defining a piece of wood in terms of whether or not it makes a good seat. Because we want places to sit. But it starts with an evaluation. The evaluation is based on what someone likes, or wants. Computers don't like and want.

You guys make me do all the work, parsing your glib arguments.
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Bryan Carr



Joined: 29 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 29, 2014 10:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi all, and many apologies for being MIA.

Avital, the chapter and verse for the remark Strauss made is p29 in The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism -- in his essay "Introduction to Heideggerian Existentialism":

Perhaps only great thinkers are really competent to judge the thought of great thinkers. Heidegger made a distinction between philosophers and those for whom philosophy is identical with the history of philosophy. He made a distinction, in other words, between the thinker and the scholar. I know that I am only a scholar. But I know also that most people who call themselves philosophers are mostly, at best, scholars. The scholar is radically dependent on the work of the great thinkers, of men who faced problems without being overpowered by any authority. The scholar is cautious: methodic, not bold. He does not become lost to our sight, to us, in inaccessible heights and mists, as the great thinkers do. Yet while the great thinkers are so bold, they are also much more cautious than we are; they see pitfalls where we are sure of our ground. We scholars live in a charmed circle, light living, like the Homeric gods - protected against the problems of the great thinkers. The scholar becomes possible through the fact that the great thinkers disagree.

(That "at best" is a nice touch.)

As re. the Trolley Problem, I could be mistaken (and this won't address Avital's wise point about it needing to placed in context of WWII) but I think Philippa Foot initially suggested it as a kind of reductio -- or perhaps an gedankenexperiment to show simply that, empirically, we do think (or rather, feel, intuit, etc) differently about what is morally acceptable depending on apparently small differences (e.g. push a lever vs push a man). Clearly this is significant and needs thinking through, but i am not sure it is news. Haven't we known for a very long time about the problems of casuistry? Which simply means, imagine this, we haven't got very far with the very basic questions.

When I try to think Ethics through, even an inch, I feel myself wrestling with fog unless I am in a concrete situation; general maxims leave me at sea. I am not saying this is from lack of trying, and in a concrete situation I do have recourse to these precepts in deliberation; but I don't think they ever trump. It generally comes down to relationships, felt or acknowledged -- and how much of this is really thinking? When I have done wrong, I feel wretched (if I do) because it's a person I have done wrong, not a rule I have broken. (Ah! But then isn't the "rule" just "don't do wrong to a *person*"? So goes the never-ending back and forth of mental games of gotcha. I have no answers.)

Somewhere in the same essay referenced above, Strauss says that Heidegger flatly stated that ethics is impossible and that this "opens up an abyss."

Pete: wow, a student really told you we could expect to settle the problem via an algorithm on a smartphone? Kali Yuga is well underway.

Avital, I was interested in (and I think misled by) your remark at the thread's top:
Quote:
The Amis s say there is no god, or that one must be agnostic about it only because of the lack or impossibility of proving a negative. What can that mean except that there is no moral good? If nature is not good, ie, rational, that means the same as there is no god, but instead nothing. And the liberation we common folks feel at that leads us to make our own morality, or values. But what is their rationality based on according to the Amis s? On nature being good? How do they know?


When I responded as I did --
Quote:
I think I provisionally agree with you about morality, rationality, and God. (If I understand you here.) Of course, I do not believe that "all is permitted." Ergo...


You said,
Quote:
This is the exact perfidious position that I am concerned with, and that I find inadmissible. It infantilizes the whole of the Northern Atlantic world. I use the plural advisedly, Amis s. Some form of this view is almost universal amongst us.

I would say ‘all is permitted’ says exactly the same thing as there is no morality (god, rationality). So you seem to say: like the atheists, I too believe there is no morality, but I do not believe that there is no morality. A manifest contradiction.


I may be misunderstanding which "this" you mean. But I am unsure (and genuinely curious) why you think I am involved in a contradiction. It's altogether possible. I do believe in God, so there's that. But I am not sure I can be articulate or coherent about it -- certainly not to most atheists' standards. When called upon to speak about it, it's as if I am asked to treat post-calculus maths with my simple arithmetic. I don't say this gives me license to talk nonsense; I own it is in some manner unsatisfactory to say something like "Limits of language..." but there it is.

This post is already too long, and too many points are addressed in it, so I apologize for the scatteredness, but that seems to be the nature of things. Either very short one-line back&forth, or sprawling excursions. I apologize if I have just talked (typed) past someone else's point. This is a difficult medium to think in.
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Avital Ronell
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 01, 2014 11:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know how Heidegger differs from Kant on the issue of the difference between the scholars and the philosophers. But, that is already in Kant. It is a fine subject for further study. Perhaps I might say a word on that, why shouldn't I try? One can say that a teacher of English is no writer, not in the serious sense, it is something of that kind of distinction so far as I know. Or a psychoanalyst is perhaps a better example, there are few good ones. That is the Kantian basic idea, I believe. It is not quite clear in Heidegger, but is not a matter of Nietzschean creativity, of the philosophy of the future, with Heidegger, but put negatively it means one is not a philologist, who has care over the text, and passion for knowledge of what is expressed by the text. It means one also 'reads into' the text, and does so wittingly. That requires rare talent. So then, for example, with the EGS-type thinkers, we get a depressingly gloomy slew of those who think they have that talent, but they don't. The result is the waste of much work, on what doesn't amount to anything. A deflection from established routes by those unfit to travel in the forest wilderness.

Quote:
“Haven't we known for a very long time about the problems of casuistry? Which simply means, imagine this, we haven't got very far with the very basic questions.”


Casuistry means deceptive logic, no? Why is this a problem of casuistry? Wouldn’t it be a question of experience, of what people do, how their actions differ based on minor changes? The gross obvious example is: giving orders or doing it oneself. Perhaps pressing the button is even simpler than ordering, one notch more obvious, I’m not sure.

My point was the theoretical linkage to the problem of utilitarian ethics. Ethics has to mean ends, to what end? Doesn't your point concern the practical problems, and not the ends? It is as if someone asked, can we get people to serve this end? Given the nature and character of the masses. Our end is already given: the most good to the biggest number. What problems are hidden here, in our praxis? It is disguised because it is supposed to be a quiz about what one would do as moral agent, yet the end is really given.

---

Quote:
When I try to think Ethics through, even an inch, I feel myself wrestling with fog unless I am in a concrete situation; general maxims leave me at sea. I am not saying this is from lack of trying, and in a concrete situation I do have recourse to these precepts in deliberation; but I don't think they ever trump. It generally comes down to relationships, felt or acknowledged -- and how much of this is really thinking? When I have done wrong, I feel wretched (if I do) because it's a person I have done wrong, not a rule I have broken. (Ah! But then isn't the "rule" just "don't do wrong to a *person*"? So goes the never-ending back and forth of mental games of gotcha. I have no answers.)


Kant assumes that even if you don’t know it, you act by maxims, which you might make explicit to yourself. By any means possible, or, family first, or some such thing. But, if that is not so, then we still can ask, isn’t it that we think vaguely of better and worse behavior? And if there is better there is not only the useful but the good. Because the better must have reference to the good, though the good can not be seized or seen. That is the issue one would have to wrestle with, if one wanted to deny sheer usefulness. If there is no principle, one must say, utility only. Utility is then tempered by the opinion of the masses, we could call it that. But we know that opinion, or judgment differs from time to time and place to place. Such as with the example of cannibalism. It is a question of what one thinks is natural, eating human flesh for us is unnatural, evil even.

Do you see what utilitarian ethics says, it says this is just a logos, a word. It is not true, not good, not natural. One might say, it is a practical necessity for those who would have a city, or a state. Because human beings like to have reasons for what they do.

----


Quote:
Somewhere in the same essay referenced above, Strauss says that Heidegger flatly stated that ethics is impossible and that this "opens up an abyss."


Ethics is impossible for Heidegger because there is no transcendence. No Christian, or theological god. (Of course, one might say there is a genuine good apart from the theological views, embedded in the praxis, that is another issue) Kant tried to fix this, and it is Kant that Heidegger rejected on this level, of breaking out of the sphere of the finite, in the debate with Cassier this comes through. Machiavelli says, in the absence of a higher court victory is the only thing that matters. Thus, law is manmade, it is nomos. No (transcendent) good for its own sake. Rather, good for the city, the state, the tyrant.

The abyss refers to Kant, Kant saw this, it is in the groundwork, but he tried to fix it, unsuccessfully. Because with Kant we can not tell the difference between some Freudian-father-image provenance, and a deeper stratum of inception. Kant never works that out. Though he tries to derive it from the ground up, from the finite, he can’t demonstrate to us that nature is good. Later Schelling took this up, under the slogan: the abyss of freedom.


Quote:
I may be misunderstanding which "this" you mean. But I am unsure (and genuinely curious) why you think I am involved in a contradiction. It's altogether possible. I do believe in God, so there's that.


What did you mean by “I think I provisionally agree with you about morality, rationality, and God. (If I understand you here.)”? What do you agree with? I though you meant you agree with the atheists. And then you threw in, but not with ‘everything is permitted.’
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Bryan Carr



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avital,

This will not address most of your points (I am writing on the fly) but I think the misunderstanding was my fault. When I said
Quote:
I think I provisionally agree with you about morality, rationality, and God. (If I understand you here.)


what I took myself to be agreeing with was the impression I got from you that you agreed that, sans transcendence, the assertion of anything being "Good" (or the opposite, for that matter ... though one might run headlong into the ultimate sentence of Genealogy of Morals, essay 1) was meaningless. This was when you had said --
Quote:
The Amis s say there is no god, or that one must be agnostic about it only because of the lack or impossibility of proving a negative. What can that mean except that there is no moral good? If nature is not good, ie, rational, that means the same as there is no god, but instead nothing. And the liberation we common folks feel at that leads us to make our own morality, or values. But what is their rationality based on according to the Amis s? On nature being good? How do they know?


What I agree with here, is that confined within the horizon of our finitude and the natural world, there is indeed no sense in saying that there is a moral good. So when I went on to say, "but not everything is permitted," I meant to imply, fairly straightforwardly, that the atheism of the "Amis's" is a nonstarter.

Also, when I remarked that
Quote:
“Haven't we known for a very long time about the problems of casuistry? Which simply means, imagine this, we haven't got very far with the very basic questions.”

you responded
Quote:
Casuistry means deceptive logic, no? Why is this a problem of casuistry?


Again, the misunderstanding is my fault. I was using the term in the jurisprudential sense of "case-based reasoning," but I should have borne in mind that the word is indeed often used a pejorative, simply meaning unsound thinking. (The venerable Wikipedia opines that "The agreed meaning of "casuistry" is in flux. The term can be used either to describe a presumably acceptable form of reasoning or a form of reasoning that is inherently unsound and deceptive.") I was thinking in particular of the works The Abuse of Casuistry by Toulmin and Jonsen, and Conscience and Its Problems, An Introduction to Casuistry by Kirk. In any case, all I meant was that, while not an inherently invalid procedure, the sort of ethical induction that casuistry is is problematic. The sort of thing meant by the adage "hard cases make bad law."

It will take me a little more time to think about your other points, and especially those raised in the other thread.
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Avital Ronell
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
What I agree with here, is that confined within the horizon of our finitude and the natural world, there is indeed no sense in saying that there is a moral good. So when I went on to say, "but not everything is permitted," I meant to imply, fairly straightforwardly, that the atheism of the "Amis's" is a nonstarter.


You mean that an atheism that assumes there is rationality, and so concludes that because there is rationality there can be a sense of the ethical (, is a ‘nonstarter)? (The reasoning of that atheism, anchored apparently on the tacit notion that rationality says something different than good (ie, something different than god as in the phrase form the American Declaration of Independence, ‘Nature’s God’).

So you mean one is to be agnostic about the ‘everything is permitted’ (which I take to be simply the positive formulation of ‘there is no god’) in the case where we accept the thesis on finitude?

Casuistry.

You mean the problem of applying the general rule to the particular, ergo the sphere of practical reason? But, I think what is at issue here is the general rule, it supplies the to-what-ends instruction. You seem to point us to the practical sphere.

You see the self deception here: I say, no place from which I might channel the good, no god, but then, all the same, I sneak in a principle, the most good for the greatest number. Where does it come from?
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