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A Reply to Stephen Angle

A Reply to Stephen Angle ofpolitics.Theparticipationofthecommunity,whichHarrisstresses,isindeedimportant,butIarguethatwhatisreallyneededisforpoliticalnorms(likelawsand rights)tobecomepartlyindependentfromethicaljudgments. Rehearsingthedetailsofthatargumentwouldtakemetoofarafield,soletme concludewithafewwordsaboutvirtueethics.SomeofHarris'commentsalludeto the ongoing debate withinWestern moral philosophy about the definition, scope, andindependenceofvirtueethicsasatheorytype.Overthelasttwoorthreed cades e wehavelearned(orbeenreminded)boththatvirtueandrelatedideasplaysignificantrolesinmanydeontologicalandconsequentialistframeworks,andthatvirtuecenteredtheorieshavebeenandcanbedevelopedinmanymorewaysthansimply following Aristotle. In addition, various kinds of care ethics and role ethics have emerged,eachsharingsomegroundwithvirtueethicsbuteachmakingrelationality morecentralthanithasbeenformostvirtueethicists.Inthiscontext(andgiventhe importanceofrelationalityforallConfucians),challengeslikeHarris'arenaturaland stimulating,evenifIfindthisparticularversionunpersuasive.Inmyjudgment,we bothlearnmoreaboutNeo-Confucianismandengageinmorefruitfuldialoguewith contemporarythoughtwhenweseeZhuXiandWangYangmingasdevelopingdistinctivevarietiesofvirtueethics,butthisconversationisalongwayfrombeingover. Thorian R. Harris StephenAngleunderstandsoneofourdisagreementstoconcerntheproperwayto balancethesubjectiveandobjectiveelementsofcoherence(li).Iamsaidtothinkhe makescoherencefartooobjective,whilehesaysthatImakecoherencefartoosubjective.AccordingtoAngle'sownaccountofcoherence,itis"objective"inthatitis constitutedbyourreactionstocertainobjectivefeaturesofoursituations.Wemight besaidto"articulate"orperhaps"discover"coherenceinthatwearerespondingto somethingthatisthere,independentofourindividualwishes.Yetifcoherencewere purelyobjective,itmightbethoughttoeasilybecomenothingmorethananabstract idealwithoutthepowertomotivate.Topreventthisobjection hichAngleattri--w --h butestome eclaimsthatcoherenceisnotmerelyobjective,but"subjective"1as well.Coherence,hesays,requiresourindividualreactions.Thuscoherenceaffects uspersonallyandisconnectedtoourmotivations.Whilecoherenceisthuspartly subjective,wereonetoignoretheobjectivenatureofcoherenceandthinkitpurely subjective positionheattributestome henormativityofcoherencewouldbe --a --t relativetotheindividual.Inadditiontothephilosophicalproblemsassociatedwith individualethicalrelativism,thispositionwouldalsofailtorepresentadequatelythe normativityofNeo-Confucianethics. PhilosophyEast&WestVolume62,Number3July2012400­402 ©2012byUniversityofHawai`iPress Irealizenowthatitwasamistaketoexpressanyofmyobjectionsintermsofthe "subjective"or"objective."IwouldnotliketobethoughtofaschampioningasubjectivistinterpretationofcoherenceastheproperalternativetoAngle'sobjectivist account, but rather as cautioning against the use of either term subjective" or --" "o jective" nourinterpretationofcoherence.Tofocusonanindividual'scontrib --i butiontocoherencerisksmissingitscommunaldimension;tofocusontheobjective or "factual" dimension to coherence risks ignoring its cultural dimension. Each is potentiallydistortinginitsownfashionsincecoherenceisarguablymorecommunal thanindividual,andmoreculturalthan"factual." Perhaps our disagreement can fruitfully be considered as akin to the debate wthinthephilosophyofscienceovertheinfluenceofscientificparadigmsonscii entificobservations.Ithinkthatthesages,byprovidingnotjusttheirownpersonal exampleandtheexampleofaflourishingcommunitybutalsoanormativevocabulary,setupa"paradigm"insomethinglikeaKuhniansense:that,whenregardedas sages,theyprovideaculturalandcommunalnormativelensthroughwhichthose under their influence will "observe" coherence.2 While a community may come undertheinfluenceofadifferentparadigmfollowingacrisisinitsnormativeculture,allseeingremainsparadigm-seeing.3Andsuchseeingisneithersubjectivenor objective. ThewayAngletalksabouttheobjectivityofcoherencesuggeststhatitinvolves paradigm-freeobservationofthesituation,andthatsuch"objective"featuressupply the possibly global normativity that he attributes to "universal coherence" (tianli). Thisbringsustooneofmymainconcernswithhisaccountofsagehood:byrooting thenormativityofcoherenceinthe"objective"featuresofthesituation,freefromthe paradigmaticinfluenceofsages,AngleeffectivelystripsthesagesofwhatItaketobe theiruniquecontributiontonormativeculture. AsformychallengeregardingtheapplicabilityofvirtueethicstoNeo-Confucian ethics,thereisonethingIwouldliketotrytoclarify.Anglewrites:"Theideathat `sage'reallystandsinfor`flourishingcommunity'isawildexaggerationthatwould makenosenseofthetexts.Sagesareindividualpeople,justlikeyouorme."Thefirst thingtosayisthatthiswasnotintended,onmypart,asalinguisticcomment,butas aphilosophicalone.Second,whileitisfairtosaythatShunwasan"individualperson"(assumingheactuallyexisted,andsolongaswearetalkingaboutthemundane qualityofhavingahumanbodyandnotusingthisphrasetoconstructap ilosophical h pictureofpersonhood),Shunwasalsoasage ndthisissomethingthatisnottrue --a ofindividualpersonsinisolation(hencemydistinctionbetween"Shun"and"Shunthe-sage").Sagehoodisnotatraitofanindividual,likeavirtueorasetofvirtues;it existsonlyincommunalcooperation,muchlikeparenthoodorprofessorship(ina normative,andnotjustdescriptive,senseoftheseterms).Thetitleofsageisearned butalsobestowed. IagreewithStephenAnglethatconversationisthetruemediumofthought,and Iwishtothankhimforafruitfulconversationandtheopportunityithasprovidedfor developingmythoughtsonthisdeeplyfascinatingtopic. ThorianR.Harris Notes 1­Inhisreplytomyreviewhestrangelyequatesethicalsubjectivismwithethical particularism. Ethical particularism claims that the normative is d pendent on e theparticularsofthegivencontexts,aclaimthatisoftenthoughttoprecludethe justifieduseofmoralprinciples.Ethicalsubjectivism,ontheotherhand,claims thatthenormativeisdependentonthesubject.`Ifthesubjectprefersx,xisnormative'isapossibleformofethicalsubjectivism.Yetasubjectis tbest nly --a --o partofthecontext;andthereisnothingtopreventethicalsubjectivismfromincorporatingmoralprinciples.Hence,theyarebestkeptdistinct. 2­Onemightbeabletotestthishypothesiswithacloseanalysisofzhengmingand adeterminationofwhatthezhengofourmingdependsupon. 3­This,however,shouldnotbeconstruedasacompleterejectionofanaturalistic foundationtocoherence.IamsimplycommentingonsomethingIfeelismissing inAngle'saccountofsagehood. PhilosophyEast&West http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Philosophy East and West University of Hawai'I Press

A Reply to Stephen Angle

Philosophy East and West , Volume 62 (3) – Aug 3, 2012

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Abstract

ofpolitics.Theparticipationofthecommunity,whichHarrisstresses,isindeedimportant,butIarguethatwhatisreallyneededisforpoliticalnorms(likelawsand rights)tobecomepartlyindependentfromethicaljudgments. Rehearsingthedetailsofthatargumentwouldtakemetoofarafield,soletme concludewithafewwordsaboutvirtueethics.SomeofHarris'commentsalludeto the ongoing debate withinWestern moral philosophy about the definition, scope, andindependenceofvirtueethicsasatheorytype.Overthelasttwoorthreed cades e wehavelearned(orbeenreminded)boththatvirtueandrelatedideasplaysignificantrolesinmanydeontologicalandconsequentialistframeworks,andthatvirtuecenteredtheorieshavebeenandcanbedevelopedinmanymorewaysthansimply following Aristotle. In addition, various kinds of care ethics and role ethics have emerged,eachsharingsomegroundwithvirtueethicsbuteachmakingrelationality morecentralthanithasbeenformostvirtueethicists.Inthiscontext(andgiventhe importanceofrelationalityforallConfucians),challengeslikeHarris'arenaturaland stimulating,evenifIfindthisparticularversionunpersuasive.Inmyjudgment,we bothlearnmoreaboutNeo-Confucianismandengageinmorefruitfuldialoguewith contemporarythoughtwhenweseeZhuXiandWangYangmingasdevelopingdistinctivevarietiesofvirtueethics,butthisconversationisalongwayfrombeingover. Thorian R. Harris StephenAngleunderstandsoneofourdisagreementstoconcerntheproperwayto balancethesubjectiveandobjectiveelementsofcoherence(li).Iamsaidtothinkhe makescoherencefartooobjective,whilehesaysthatImakecoherencefartoosubjective.AccordingtoAngle'sownaccountofcoherence,itis"objective"inthatitis constitutedbyourreactionstocertainobjectivefeaturesofoursituations.Wemight besaidto"articulate"orperhaps"discover"coherenceinthatwearerespondingto somethingthatisthere,independentofourindividualwishes.Yetifcoherencewere purelyobjective,itmightbethoughttoeasilybecomenothingmorethananabstract idealwithoutthepowertomotivate.Topreventthisobjection hichAngleattri--w --h butestome eclaimsthatcoherenceisnotmerelyobjective,but"subjective"1as well.Coherence,hesays,requiresourindividualreactions.Thuscoherenceaffects uspersonallyandisconnectedtoourmotivations.Whilecoherenceisthuspartly subjective,wereonetoignoretheobjectivenatureofcoherenceandthinkitpurely subjective positionheattributestome henormativityofcoherencewouldbe --a --t relativetotheindividual.Inadditiontothephilosophicalproblemsassociatedwith individualethicalrelativism,thispositionwouldalsofailtorepresentadequatelythe normativityofNeo-Confucianethics. PhilosophyEast&WestVolume62,Number3July2012400­402 ©2012byUniversityofHawai`iPress Irealizenowthatitwasamistaketoexpressanyofmyobjectionsintermsofthe "subjective"or"objective."IwouldnotliketobethoughtofaschampioningasubjectivistinterpretationofcoherenceastheproperalternativetoAngle'sobjectivist account, but rather as cautioning against the use of either term subjective" or --" "o jective" nourinterpretationofcoherence.Tofocusonanindividual'scontrib --i butiontocoherencerisksmissingitscommunaldimension;tofocusontheobjective or "factual" dimension to coherence risks ignoring its cultural dimension. Each is potentiallydistortinginitsownfashionsincecoherenceisarguablymorecommunal thanindividual,andmoreculturalthan"factual." Perhaps our disagreement can fruitfully be considered as akin to the debate wthinthephilosophyofscienceovertheinfluenceofscientificparadigmsonscii entificobservations.Ithinkthatthesages,byprovidingnotjusttheirownpersonal exampleandtheexampleofaflourishingcommunitybutalsoanormativevocabulary,setupa"paradigm"insomethinglikeaKuhniansense:that,whenregardedas sages,theyprovideaculturalandcommunalnormativelensthroughwhichthose under their influence will "observe" coherence.2 While a community may come undertheinfluenceofadifferentparadigmfollowingacrisisinitsnormativeculture,allseeingremainsparadigm-seeing.3Andsuchseeingisneithersubjectivenor objective. ThewayAngletalksabouttheobjectivityofcoherencesuggeststhatitinvolves paradigm-freeobservationofthesituation,andthatsuch"objective"featuressupply the possibly global normativity that he attributes to "universal coherence" (tianli). Thisbringsustooneofmymainconcernswithhisaccountofsagehood:byrooting thenormativityofcoherenceinthe"objective"featuresofthesituation,freefromthe paradigmaticinfluenceofsages,AngleeffectivelystripsthesagesofwhatItaketobe theiruniquecontributiontonormativeculture. AsformychallengeregardingtheapplicabilityofvirtueethicstoNeo-Confucian ethics,thereisonethingIwouldliketotrytoclarify.Anglewrites:"Theideathat `sage'reallystandsinfor`flourishingcommunity'isawildexaggerationthatwould makenosenseofthetexts.Sagesareindividualpeople,justlikeyouorme."Thefirst thingtosayisthatthiswasnotintended,onmypart,asalinguisticcomment,butas aphilosophicalone.Second,whileitisfairtosaythatShunwasan"individualperson"(assumingheactuallyexisted,andsolongaswearetalkingaboutthemundane qualityofhavingahumanbodyandnotusingthisphrasetoconstructap ilosophical h pictureofpersonhood),Shunwasalsoasage ndthisissomethingthatisnottrue --a ofindividualpersonsinisolation(hencemydistinctionbetween"Shun"and"Shunthe-sage").Sagehoodisnotatraitofanindividual,likeavirtueorasetofvirtues;it existsonlyincommunalcooperation,muchlikeparenthoodorprofessorship(ina normative,andnotjustdescriptive,senseoftheseterms).Thetitleofsageisearned butalsobestowed. IagreewithStephenAnglethatconversationisthetruemediumofthought,and Iwishtothankhimforafruitfulconversationandtheopportunityithasprovidedfor developingmythoughtsonthisdeeplyfascinatingtopic. ThorianR.Harris Notes 1­Inhisreplytomyreviewhestrangelyequatesethicalsubjectivismwithethical particularism. Ethical particularism claims that the normative is d pendent on e theparticularsofthegivencontexts,aclaimthatisoftenthoughttoprecludethe justifieduseofmoralprinciples.Ethicalsubjectivism,ontheotherhand,claims thatthenormativeisdependentonthesubject.`Ifthesubjectprefersx,xisnormative'isapossibleformofethicalsubjectivism.Yetasubjectis tbest nly --a --o partofthecontext;andthereisnothingtopreventethicalsubjectivismfromincorporatingmoralprinciples.Hence,theyarebestkeptdistinct. 2­Onemightbeabletotestthishypothesiswithacloseanalysisofzhengmingand adeterminationofwhatthezhengofourmingdependsupon. 3­This,however,shouldnotbeconstruedasacompleterejectionofanaturalistic foundationtocoherence.IamsimplycommentingonsomethingIfeelismissing inAngle'saccountofsagehood. PhilosophyEast&West

Journal

Philosophy East and WestUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Aug 3, 2012

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