Zero Sum or Principles? by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Zero Sum or Principles?
Abstract: If we refuse to accept materialistic reductionism that makes our social lives exhaustively the product of capricious genetics, the amygdala, and chemicals in the brain like oxytocin, we are the species that can ask what we should do. By playing a zero sum game, one knows who “won” whereas acting on principle gives one the satisfaction that one tried to do more than “win.” However, here it is claimed that the alternative of a zero sum game and principles represents not an exclusive dyad as if one can pursue one of the options only by exclusion of the other. Both are symptomatic of humanity’s “radical” evil and “radical” goodness. We can pursue one or the other only because we have the capacity to do both. Hence, deeper than decline, progress, or stagnation is an understanding of humanity as the source of a causal efficacy that is not reducible to physical causality and, therefore, this suggests that with humanity we find in degree an “openness” in nature that allows for creative change while demanding assumption of moral responsibility for the exercise of humanity’s creative power.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/deed.en_US.
The following paper was presented at at the Society for Ricoeur Studies at the University of Oregon, October 27, 2013
PDF Version: What is ‘Radical’ Evil? A Reading of Ricoeur on Kant and Religion
What is ‘Radical’ Evil?
A Reading of Ricoeur on Kant and Religion
What follows I can best describe as a “lover’s quarrel” anchored, for my part, in deep gratitude and respect. On the one hand, I will strenuously critique Ricoeur’s reading of Kant, particularly with respect to 1) the ontological status of “radical” evil, 2) the anchoring of morality in violence, 3) Ricoeur’s “deliberative,” hence, consequentialist ethic, and 4) his limiting of religion to historical religion. On the other hand, the “ontology” of his theory of metaphor as well as the centrality of the “productive imagination” in his theory of discourse are applauded vigorously and can be viewed as thoroughly in harmony with the “ground” of Kant’s ethical reflections, “autonomous freedom,” which will be proposed as a more comprehensive “ground” for morality, and a more adequate “ground” for understanding of religion.
Reflections on the Symbol: A Quasi-Transcendental Assumption that “Gives Rise to Thought”
I begin my investigation of Ricoeur’s reading of Kant by examining the notion of “symbol.” I will seek to demonstrate that the pre-figuration, which is the symbolic for Ricoeur, functions in a quasi-transcendental sense that makes symbols a posteriori synthetic judgments and, therefore, hypothetical, not, as for Kant, a priori synthetic judgments that are categorical (I will speak to the difference between a posteriori and a priori synthetic judgment below).
On Martha Nussbaum’s Reading of Kant by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
On Martha Nussbaum’s Reading of Kant: Aristotelian Teleology Meets Kantian Archaeology
The following is an email that was sent to Herman Waetjen, Emeritus Professor of the San Francisco Theological Seminary and Berkeley’s GTU. During a recent visit with him in San Anselmo, Herman shared with me passages from Martha Nussbaum’s Frontiers of Justice that offer her reading of Kant on reason, morality, and humanity’s responsibilities to nature, other species, and the physically and mentally challenged. Herman had written a paper on “The Theology of Animals” for the Spring 2016 meeting of the Pacific Coast Theological Society meeting. His paper is available on-line at the PCTS webpage. This email provides my response to what I take to be a serious but, unfortunately, all too frequent “mis-reading” of Kant. To be sure, every reading of a text is an interpretation, but that fact is no license to generate any whimsical reading that serves one’s purposes in the moment. As Paul Ricoeur proposed: A good reading is congruent with the text and generates a plenitude of rich meaning. A poor reading is narrow and far-fetched. In my judgment, Martha Nussbaum’s reading of Kant is incredibly narrow and far-fetched, even if there are powerful voices in the academy today who share her reading.
“Should Language Acquisition be Required” by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Should Foreign Language Acquisition be Required?
29 December 2016
According to today’s NY Times (29 December 2016), Princeton University is making the learning of a new language a mandatory requirement of its General Education program — even for those already proficient in a second language. I’m commenting here because I don’t have a Facebook account, which the NY Times requires for commenting on their blog.
In our day, it is an incredible privilege as a US citizen to know a second language if you are not an immigrant or from a recently immigrated family. It is a privilege because foreign languages unlike in almost all other industrialized nations are not required in elementary school, and, increasingly, they are not required in high school even for those intending to go on to college because even colleges are rapidly dropping the requirement. After all, all one needs to get ahead in the world these days is English because the whole world has committed to English as the lingua franca of research and business. I am among the privileged able to afford two summers at Middlebury College’s Summer German School at the ripe age of 31. I know full well that the costs in time and money make such an experience simply impossible for most Americans. Continue reading “Should Foreign Language Acquisition be Required? 29 December 2016”
The Incomplete Copernican Revolution in Popular Legend, the Natural Sciences, and in Practical Reason (Morality) by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
The Incomplete Copernican Revolution in Popular Legend, the Natural Sciences, and in Practical Reason (Morality)
Abstract: There are three senses in which the Copernican Revolution of the 16th century is not yet complete today. The first sense is in terms of the popular account about what Copernicus actually accomplished and the reaction on the part of the church in Rome to Copernicus’ writings. The second sense is in terms of the meaning of the revolution for the natural sciences and what it means to do science after Copernicus. The third sense is in terms of practical reason (morality) or the religious consequences of the CR.
What is Categorical about the Categorical? by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at criticalidealism.com.
What is Categorical about the Categorical?
On the Sensible and the Supersensible
Human experience is dependent upon the inseparable, yet distinguishable, interaction between two dimensions: the sensible and the supersensible. Each dimension must simultaneously make a contribution, or else there can be no experience. Although we must speak of two dimensions that make our experience possible, we are no more talking about dualism as the explanatory ground of experience than attributing multiple, interacting causes to a physical event shatters the unity of efficient causality. We would be concerned with dualism only if we succumbed to a Cartesian dual-substance notion of experience, but that would, of course, presume that we had access to such things as substances that could confirm their reality. Rather, we do not experience substances, only their appearances. Granted, “hardness” (Unnachgiebigkeit) and “durableness” (Dauerhaftigkeit) are strong indicators of the presence of substance, but we too quickly substitute substance for its appearance. We live in a world of appearances and a priori synthetic judgment, and any conclusions about the nature and character of substance are among our synthetic judgments either a posteriori or a priori since we cannot experience substances themselves.
These two dimensions appear to be 180° opposite to one another. The sensible world consists of a set of appearances that are perceptible, material, divisible, measurable, and constantly changing. The supersensible world consists of a set of “appearances” that are imperceptible, immaterial, indivisible, immeasurable, and, when it comes to concepts, unchanging. Observation of these contrasting sets of appearances by no means presumes what needs to be proved. Rather, it is only a contrast between descriptive sets, and it is the task of Critical Idealism to sort out what is necessary and what is purely accidental about these sets of appearances.
Freedom! What is it good for? by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Freedom! What’s it good for?
In his 1979 essay “What’s wrong with Negative Liberty,” Charles Taylor identifies Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts of Liberty” as the archaeological heritage to which he appeals in order to engage a discussion of freedom. However, Taylor employs Berlin’s concept of negative freedom (freedom from external interference) as the straw man for formulating an alternative notion of positive freedom to Berlin’s positive freedom. Berlin’s positive freedom is “coercive freedom” in the sense of Rousseau’s Social Contract through which the individual subordinates her-/himself to a “higher authority” such as parents or the state in order to increase one’s, or to achieve a greater, freedom. In contrast, Taylor’s positive freedom is not “coercive” but “purposive.” In other words, Taylor wants to acknowledge that freedom involves not merely an alternative between radical independence and external coercion, but positive freedom is concerned with “internal” elements (the individual’s desires) that lead to our pursuing purposive ends. For Taylor, then, Berlin’s notions of negative and positive freedom are inadequate to grasp the true character of positive freedom: the pursuit of ends governed by our internal desires. Since not all desires are moral, though, the desires that govern Taylor’s notion of positive freedom as “purposive” require a “second-order” reflection that invokes moral principles to govern our desires. For Taylor, the source of these moral principles is religion.
Critical Idealism and Postmodernism by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at criticalidealism.com.
Critical Idealism and Postmodernism
One of the intriguing ironies of the history of philosophy is that Enlightenment Modernism already anticipated and provided a strategy for responding to the skepticism of Postmodernism.
Postmodernism is usually linked to Jean-François Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition (1979, English 1985), in which he dismisses the meta-narratives of Western culture as bankrupt because of their destructiveness. It is also associated with a movement in architecture that is characterized by the demolition of gigantic buildings (e.g., hotels in Las Vegas) and sport facilities as a symbol of the impermanence of even the most massive of human constructions. In the theory of knowledge, Postmodernism is intimately connected with Deconstructionism that seeks to cultivate the virtues of vulgar skepticism for a project of justice.
Meta-narratives are attempts to place us into explanatory answers to the questions: where have we come from?, why are we here?, where are we going? Such narratives are communal by nature, and they place the individual into a historical context to which one is indebted and for which one is called to sacrifice. Such meta-narratives can be religious, political, and/or economic, and they have proven to be incredibly destructive. The meta-narratives of racism, nationalism, religious confessionalism, sexism, and gender orientation have been devastating and constitute an indictment of our species. However, such meta-narratives reach down to sub-narratives that define us by gang affiliation and or sport teams, and the violence associated with such “explanations of who we are” continue to shock us from drug cartel violence, to mafia murders, to soccer hooligans. The destructiveness of the Russian Gulag and the German death camps, but more recently the genocide of Ruanda, the Balkans, and clan violence, can all be traced to meta-narratives that were/are used to justify the violent dominance of one group over others. Lyotard’s critique of such meta-narratives is not new in the French tradition. François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire), arguably the most famous Enlightenment thinker, guesstimated that a million people a century have been killed out of religious intolerance. Europe was devastated by the (not exclusively but primarily) religiously motivated Thirty Years War from 1618-1648 that pitted Catholic against Protestant and saw the slaughter of up to 50% of the population in parts of southern Germany and Austria. However, one also remembered the atrocities and slaughter of peasants and nobility in the bloody Peasants War a century earlier that swept across eastern France, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, which sought to overcome the injustices of the feudal system on the basis of biblical warrants and backings.