Words and production of meaning 2: MP3 Palmer reading from "Autobiography" 3: MP3 Russian influence on "Autobiography" 3: MP3 Schwartz reading a passage from a Palmer essay 1:
They were everything I expected and more. It is infuriating to read a book making one horrible argument after the other. There are many theories of ethics in existence today 2. The ones that came after Aristotelianism have failed to objectively ground themselves and create a perfect society in which everyone agrees on a foundation for morality 4.
Because we cannot settle these by rational argument, instead we turn to outrage and attempts to shame our opponents, making the protester one of the archetypal figures of the modern world. It starts grating after a while. I broadly agree with him about this problem.
I discuss it pretty explicitly in sections 6.
I propose as the solution some form of utilitarianism, the only moral theory in which everything is commensurable and so there exists a single determinable standard for deciding among different moral claims. Annnnnd MacIntyre decides to go with virtue ethics.
The interesting thing about virtue ethics is that it is uniquely bad at this problem.
You can attach a virtue or several virtues of either side of practically any moral dilemma, and virtue ethics says exactly nothing about how to balance out those conflicting duties.
In fact, I dislike it more than almost anyone I know except maybe Federico. But I will give credit where credit is due: The solutions are wildly incorrect and incredibly harmful, but they get a gold star for effort. Did you even consider just being a virtuous city-state in which everyone is a great-minded soul acting for the hints on writing a critical book review of the polis?
In fact, the beginning of the book is a fascinating and attractive metaphor drawn from the excellent A Canticle For Leibowitz in which all scientific knowledge is destroyed by some apocalypse. To MacIntyre, the tradition here is virtue ethics and modern society plays the role of the postapocalyptics looking quizzically over the scraps.
The Enlightenment, of course. Just once I want to go a whole week without someone blaming everything on the Enlightenment.
Alasdair MacIntyre is clearly an expert classical scholar. I agree — it is a perfect moral dilemma — of exactly the sort MacIntyre is claiming only exists because our civilization is living in the postapocalyptic ruins of virtue ethics.
And Philoctetes was written twenty years before Aristotle was even born. Heck, forget Sophocles, even Socrates is a perfect example of this kind of moral inquiry. MacIntyre then waxes about the wonder of the Greek city-states, which he says were communities where everyone was united on a single view of the good — that which was the proper telos of man.
Except, once again, all the problems of the modern age appear in the Greek city-states as well. Athens went from the laws of Solon to the tyranny of Peisistratus to the dictatorship of Hippias to the democracy of Cleisthenes to the oligarchy of the Four Hundred to the Thirty Tyrants to the democracy of Thrasybulus all in about a century.
The periods of democracy were as rife with hostile factions and unresolved issues as any period in modern America or Europe. The idea that everyone back then was happily united around the Objectively Proper End of Man is slightly complicated by the fact that no one back then agreed on what the Objectively Proper End of Man was, any more than anyone today agrees on what the Proper End of Man is, least of all virtue ethicists and super-dog-double-least of all anyone who reads the book After Virtue which happily informs us that pursuing it will solve all our problems but neglects to mention what the heck it might be or give us a shred of evidence to overcome our high priors against such a thing existing.
The modern period is marked…okay, I understood this part even less than the other parts. The Bureaucrat claims to have expertise in some subject, but clearly this is a lie, because no one can ever understand human affairs infallibly and this is kind of like saying no one can ever understand human affairs at all.
Read pages and find out. After Virtue, despite having been written by a verified Scotsman by all accounts closely engaged with the analytic tradition, just seemed really Continental to me. Even people I respect — including Catholics from the Patheos community and a few rationalists from the Less Wrong community — recommend MacIntyre.
Those same people recommended Edward Feser to me. Both have very good things to say about teleology, and both ended up Catholic as a result of their philosophical studies. I thought it did a great job bridging a wide inferential gap and really illuminated why he thought the things he thought.
I think his account of forms and teleology is flawed because of a few basic errors in his foundations I started explaining why on my old blog but never really finished but it was flawed in ways where I could understand the force of his arguments and why his premises would lead to that conclusion.
Even if I ended up disagreeing with his answers, I gained a huge admiration for his ability to ask the right questions and go about investigating them in the right way. But as his occasional enemy Chris Hallquist delights to point outFeser is not a hugely prestigious figure in mainstream academic philosophy.
I was hoping for the same fascinating ideas, but with a suave British cool instead of hilarious over-the-top rants.% ORIGINAL WORK Original pieces of writing.
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A Game Of Thrones A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 1 Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun. Cross Cultural Poetics. hosted by Leonard Schwartz.
Image credit: Carlos David. Cross Cultural Poetics is produced in the studios of KAOS-FM at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.
A few weeks ago the blogosphere discovered Ayn Rand’s margin notes on a C.S. Lewis book. They were everything I expected and more. Lewis would make an argument, and then Rand would write a stream of invective in the margin about how much she hated Lewis’ arguments and him personally.