Jump to content
Lazzarone

Virtue Ethics

Recommended Posts

was thinking about the relevance of the work of alasdair macintyre to kritik debate.

here's an hour-long video lecture by him titled, 'a culture of choices and compartmentalization' (scroll down and play with windows media player). one of the opening points is the illusory metaphor of weighing considerations based on rights on one hand and considerations based on utility on the other - 'there are no such scales', says macintyre. thus to even engage in policy discussions of this type would be subject to kritik.

further, kritiks based on his work would necessarily abjure both capitalism and statism, considering them 'two sides of the same coin':

"MacIntyre said that what we've had since 1945 is the state-cum-market. The welfare state was invented by Bismarck, as well as Disraeli, Lloyd George, and Balfour - that is, not by social democrats, but by conservatives trying to preserve an orderly capitalist society. Operation of the resulting state/market produces a certain amount of disorder, which in turn needs to be corrected by welfare-state policies. Welfare is therefore bound to a cycle: the state promotes growth, it regulates the market with welfare, then it needs to cut back. It issues promissory notes that have to be paid for (in the context of U.S. politics) by Republican policies. Democrats and Republicans occupy different positions within this cycle, yet they are bound to the same process.

MacIntyre rejects the whole package, namely a growth economy managed by the state, with occasional corrections with welfare and so on. Consequently, the welfare state is not an alternative to the state/market; it is, on the contrary, part and parcel of the kind of state entirely implicated in the operation of market capitalism. Most political contests in the contemporary West revolve around competing views of what constitutes the right balance between state and market (the power of the market versus the authority of the state). For MacIntyre, by contrast, market and state are two sides of the same coin, and rather than choosing between them, or deciding how to give greater weight to one or the other, we should toss away the whole coin. MacIntyre doesn't go so far as to assert that there are no goods associated with state-based politics; what he does assert is that the basic structures of the modern state, and the form of political community it makes available, are essentially and not just incidentally inimical to a common good-based politics (and it is precisely this insight into our prevailing political reality that, on his view, 'communitarians' have failed to grasp)."

-- http://matthewfish.blogspot.com/2006/10/macintyres-critique-of-market-cum.html


in terms of literary politics, he's also written on 'poetry as political philosophy'.

remember also that, according to some (robert solomon, for one example), freddy nietzsche was a virtue ethicist too.

Edited by Lazzarone
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I spend more time reading Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius than any other writers. I tend to agree a great deal with MacIntyre. Strongly recommend that other people check this out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Haven't watched the lecture yet (will after GSU this weekend), but I find the characterization of Bismarck as a capitalist ideologue (I'd disagree with this -- it's far more likely he was motivated by personal political goals than any dedication to capitalism, per se; see, for example, his expansion of the franchise) interesting. How does FDR (who, for all practical purposes, introduced the welfare state to the US and who WAS a social democrat) fit into this account of history? Perhaps I'm being nitpicky about an only marginally important detail, but it does make me curious.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

after minute-30, that lecture gets really germane to kritik debate. he says we must 'break with habits of mind that are increasingly ingrained', must learn to think about 'death as such' as opposed to hiding it under the rug like 'a ghost concept', must 'raise questions to which there are no good answers', and most crucially, claims that 'the forms of public debate', 'the kinds of forum in which public disagreements are being pursued', 'are now generally *counter-productive*'. this puts the macintyre kritik firmly in the category of a self/meta-kritik such as j23.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i think zizek gives us a good example of 'virtue ethics'-reasoning (although he didn't call it such) in his opposition to torture published in the new york times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/24/opinion/24zizek.html

 

he speaks of "retain[ing] the proper sense of the horror" and "our civilization's greatest achievement" as "the growth of our spontaneous moral sensitivity" - this jives with the virtue ethics position that our visceral reactions grounded in our character count more than following universal rules (whether kantian or utilitarian). and interestingly, "those who refuse to advocate torture outright but still accept it as a legitimate topic of debate are more dangerous than those who explicitly endorse it" means that the mere debate about torture links to the kritik.

Edited by Lazzarone

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i'm going to take an excerpt from 'the tasks of philosophy: volume 1: selected essays' to demonstrate that many of the claims made by more popular kritik authors are also made by macintyre.

 

_

 

So-called "applied ethics" then is to some large degree not at all an application to actual social practice of the theories of academic moral philosophy, but is instead itself a substitute for those theories, providing ideological disguises for some of the limitations of the social settings in which moral discourse is deployed. And it is not only the rights theorist and the virtue theorist who can as a result no longer be heard in the realms of distinctively contemporary social practice; the very same inaudibility may on occasion afflict the utility theorist. What on such occasions has intervened between the utility theorist and the genuine application of her or his theories have been the effects of social practice structured by the negotiated aggregation of costs and benefits upon the application of theoretical conceptions of the evaluation of consequences of actions and policies by moral philosophers. What has generally informed such theorizing was an ideal inherited from classical utilitarianism, that of elaborating genuinely impersonal and therefore interest-neutral instruments for social measurement and evaluation, so that everybody should count for one and nobody for more than one. The achievement of this ideal in particular cases requires rationally justifiable and impersonal answers to such questions as: first, what factors in this particular case are to be included as relevant in assessing costs and benefits? What is it that is to be weighed and measured? Secondly what weight is to be assigned to different types of factor in assessing either costs or benefits, particularly when there are available radically different ways of commensurating them, none of them incontestable? That is, how do you weigh a thousand full-time jobs in an area already suffering from unemployment against three deaths from air pollution? Or forty thousand such jobs against the extinction of one species of owl? And thirdly over what time scale are consequences to be measured in this particular case, since the balance of costs over benefits or vice versa is often not the same over thirty years as over ten?

 

When such questions are posed nowadays, not in moral philosophy seminars but in the arenas where policy is made within corporations, private or public agencies, or government, it is crucial that answers are constructed through a process of negotiation, access to which and leverage within which depends upon the power and influence exerted by a variety of more or less organized interests. So out of the alternative and rival answers to these questions on particular issues a consensus will generally be reached, one for which a set of justificatory reasons can certainly be offered, just as another such set - with as much and as little rational justification - could have been offered for one or more rival conclusions, had the negotiations issued in a different outcome. The negotiated outcome is thus to a significant degree not at all an impersonal measurement of costs and benefits, but an index of the access to relative power within the negotiating processes of different groups. What is more, because cost-benefit analysis characteristically and generally concern only the effects of actions or policies within on particular delimited area of social life, actions or policies justified by appeal to them are rarely, if ever, evaluated in terms of the costs and benefits to the entire social and political community. Yet evaluation in such terms was what classical utilitarianism and its legitimate heirs have always required. So once again it is not the moral philosopher's theoretical concepts which have found application in the realm of practice, but instead a substitute counterpart informing a mode of practice which assists in preventing the intrusion of those theoretical concepts.

 

What this catalogue of examples - and there are of course others - suggests is that we inhabit an established social and cultural order which is in its central aspects resistant to, which has rendered itself largely immune to, critique from the standpoint of moral philosophy. Universities and colleges function in a twofold way in sustaining this order. They are on the one hand, through disciplines such as those of the applied natural sciences and economics, producers of techniques which can be put to the service of whatever ends are being pursued privately, corporately or governmentally. On the other hand the disciplines of the humanities and of the humaner of the social sciences provide reservations to which theoretical pursuits, such as those of the moral philosopher, can be relegated and within which any critical power that those disciplines might develop can be confined, so that whatever force moral philosophy might have had as criticism is neutralized by its status as professionalized theory, as belonging to a realm in which the victories and defeats of theorists have become irrelevant to the victories and defeats of everyday social life.

_

 

to the extent that what goes in debate rounds - e.g., what passes for a good argument in this activity - affects the education of students, it affects how educational institutions function ('universities and colleges') and affects actual ethical decisions made by our society. our opponents may retort that the wins and losses of competitive debate are irrelevant to the successes and failures of 'the real world' - but this feeds macintyre's argument: just as in the case of academic moral theory, the irrelevance is actively sustained by the neutralization of anti-utilitarian critique and the specialization of the arena of policy debate, which is why we should oppose them.

 

so, we begin to the self-evident claim that the cost-benefit approach "inherited from classical utilitarianism" remains relatively dominant in the activity to this day. the first paragraph above outlines what defines such an approach. one of macintyre's sample questions - "how do you weigh a thousand full-time jobs in an area already suffering from unemployment against three deaths from air pollution?" - exemplifies the typical weighing of economic impacts (a la mead) versus death impacts (a la khalilzad) which is a commonplace in policy discourse.

 

then macintyre points to the fly in the ointment of the utilitarian ideal: "The negotiated outcome is thus to a significant degree not at all an impersonal measurement of costs and benefits, but an index of the access to relative power within the negotiating processes of different groups."

 

this is a staunchly marxist point - as foucault might've articulated it: we act as if we're neutrally/objectively measuring the costs-and-benefits of a given policy when we're actually caught in a web of power relations. or to phrase it in more nietzschean terms: noble-sounding moral systems (like utilitarianism which elaborate "impersonal and therefore interest-neutral instruments for social measurement and evaluation, so that everybody should count for one and nobody for more than one") are really animated by 'the will to power'.

 

the next sentence then: "What is more, because cost-benefit analysis characteristically and generally concern only the effects of actions or policies within one particular delimited area of social life, actions or policies justified by appeal to them are rarely, if ever, evaluated in terms of the costs and benefits to the entire social and political community."

 

this is why, for ranciere, "politics exists through the fact of a magnitude that escapes ordinary measurement, this part of those who have no part" ('disagreement: politics and philosophy', page 15) - or a political force that resists reduction to cost-benefit analysis. therefore, true politics isn't the mere negotiation of various interests - in ranciere's terms, that's only 'policing'. or, to return to macintyre above, that's only "a substitute counterpart" which "assists in preventing the intrusion" of (what we could join ranciere in calling) 'the excluded'.

 

next macintyre writes: "we inhabit an established social and cultural order which is in its central aspects resistant to, which has rendered itself largely immune to, critique".

 

this is backed up in two ways: "Universities and colleges ... are ... producers of techniques which can be put to the service of whatever ends are being pursued privately, corporately or governmentally."

 

this reflects the early work of debate scholar gordon mitchell, who suspected that "institutional interests bent on shutting down dialogue and discussion may recruit new graduates skilled in argumentation and deploy them in information campaigns designed to neutralize public competence and short-circuit democratic decision-making" (cross-reference the j23 shell, http://www.cross-x.com/vb/showpost.p...01&postcount=1).

 

mitchell also expressed concern regarding policy debate's insularity, writing, "the notion of the academic debate tournament as a sterile laboratory carries with it some disturbing implications, when ... the barriers demarcating such a space from other spheres of deliberation beyond the school grow taller and less permeable."

 

this is macintyre final thought exactly: "the disciplines of the humanities and of the humaner of the social sciences provide reservations to which theoretical pursuits, such as those of the moral philosopher, can be relegated and within which any critical power that those disciplines might develop can be confined, so that whatever force moral philosophy might have had as criticism is neutralized by its status as professionalized theory, as belonging to a realm in which the victories and defeats of theorists have become irrelevant to the victories and defeats of everyday social life."

 

reading mitchell and macintyre together, we could see academic debate as 'a reservation' which relegates, confines, neutralizes and renders irrelevant kritik, such that the wins and losses of debaters become detached from the wins and losses of everyday people. i've argued this calls for a new brand of kritik which recognizes that even "in 'kritik rounds,' where the political status and meaning of the participants' own discourse is up for grabs, the contest round framework tends to freeze the discussion into bipolar, zero-sum terms that highlight competitive payoffs at the expense of opportunities for co-operative 'rethinking'", to quote again from mitchell's 1998 article.

 

all this echoes a point made several times in deleuze and guattari's 'treatise on nomadology' - e.g., "it is not at all surprising that the philosopher has become a public professor or state functionary" ('a thousand plateaus', page 376), "one of the fundamental tasks of the state is ... to utilize smooth spaces as a means of communication in the service of striated space" (page 385), and "smooth space is controlled by ... assign[ing] it as much as possible a communicational role" (page 384).

 

kritikers of old have become public professors and state functionaries, the practice of vigorous debate has been put in the service of statism, and debate has been assigned a wholly communicational role (or, lots of talk). d&g dream of "a thought that appeals to a people instead of taking itself for a government ministry" (page 378), and kritik debaters can dream of an activity that appeals to a thinking people instead of pretending to be the united states federal government.

_

 

p.s. macintyre also anticipates mitchell's newfound love for debate's insularity a page later. he says that there's two ways of dealing with this gap between theory and practice: the nietzschean one (advocated by foucault) and the aristotelian one (advocated by macintyre). the latter involves creating "alternative institutions, to some degree insulated from the contemporary social order" (page 122). {could this be academic debate as well?}

Edited by Lazzarone

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

After Virtue:

http://www.mediafire.com/?tdx4noytnet

http://www.mediafire.com/?2byvjntddc1

http://www.mediafire.com/?8x2nyx1c4kg (chm)

 

A Short History of Ethics:

http://www.mediafire.com/?nfwvl1xwybt

 

The Tasks of Philosophy: Selected Essays, Volume 1:

http://www.mediafire.com/?5tdc5dvgder

 

Ethics and Politics: Selected Essays, Volume 2:

http://www.mediafire.com/?dcejuwytj2g

 

Various Articles:

http://www.mediafire.com/?t1wslqfzvdj

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

in 'after virtue', there's some good answers to traditional kritiks (radicalism still relies on moral certainty, the language we use has betrayed us {page 4}, traditional kritikers are therapists (opposed to managers/policymakers), who reinforce the importance of bureaucracy by persistently attacking it {pages 30-1}). there's lots on how solvency claims are illusory {page 77 onward}. there's also an alternative framework of debate as 'intrinsically-valuable practice' {page 187 through the rest of chapter 14}. and here's a semi-random smattering of key cards that one could probably use...

 

debate is interminable: we possess no rational basis for weighing the morality of rival claims today. in high school debate, argument is incommensurable, appealing to impersonal criteria that don't exist, and taken out of its original social context. yet whenever a debater walks into a round, they pretend to have already settled the matter in their own mind. it's no wonder that so many rounds are shrill exchanges of mere assertion and counter-assertion. if our opponents can offer you compelling standards for moral judgment, we ask them to do so; if they can't, then you can't decide a winner in the usual terms. {pages 6-10: "The most striking feature..." to "...have become other than they once were". "high school debates" is on the bottom of page 7.}

 

_

 

'real world policymaking' is a fiction used to disguise arbitrary preferences with purportedly objective claims and to excuse one's own participation in the charade of power.

 

http://www.cross-x.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1548487&postcount=454

 

_

 

our opponents assume that moral judgments are expressions of preference, which assumes a distinction between facts and opinions. that's emotivism, and it's bad for seven reasons.

 

(1) it's circular. {pages 12-3.}

 

(2) it fails to distinguish between context-dependent and context-independent reasons. {page 13.}

 

(3) it fails to explain use, only meaning. {pages 13-4.}

 

(4) historically, it has a highly-impoverished view of what's good. {pages 14-7.}

 

(5) it still dresses up preferences as objective moral claims, while assuming those criteria don't exist, thus evidencing moral decline. {page 17-8.}

 

(6) it makes outlandish claims that would precipitate the abandonment of morality, if widely held. {pages 18-20.}

 

(7) analytical philosophy shows that it fails as a theory. {page 20.}

 

_

 

emotivism justifies manipulative social relations, which ensure a society rampant with consumption and bureaucracy. {page 23-7: "What is the..." to "...the truth of emotivism".}

 

_

 

emotivism strips away everything it has traditionally meant to be a moral person. {pages 31-4: "Of the self..." to "...a given end."}

 

_

 

typical debates primarily force us to choose between two intolerable options, oscillating between empty liberties and collectivist regulations. must attend to moral tradition in order to reject bureaucratic individualism. {pages 34-5: "Nonetheless..." to "...turn."}

 

_

 

a: we ought to critique the status of economists and political scientists as accurate predictors of policy outcomes. the claims of all the affirmative authors are suspended until they defend the citing of these experts. {pages 88-90: "What managerial expertise..." to "...systematic misinterpretation."}

 

b: it's impossible to make predictions with social sciences because they (1) ignore counter-examples, (2) have no scope-modifiers, and (3) lack counter-factual conditionals. {pages 90-1: "Consider for example..." to "...failed attempts at the formulation of laws."}

 

c: they can't be defended as probabilistic generalizations either because they don't apply the rigor real sciences do. {page 91: "Some social scientists..." to "...gas law equations."}

 

_

 

everyday life, in schools and local forms of political community (like debate), is key to regenerating virtue. {page xv: "When recurrently..." to "...some degree moved."}

 

_

 

i'll end with this from macintyre's postscript {page 274}...

 

"Imagine an immensely skilled chess player who cares only about winning and cares for that very much. His skills are such that he ranks with the grandmasters. Thus he is a great chess player. But since what he cares about is only winning - and perhaps the goods contingently attached to winning, goods such as fame, prestige, and money - the good that he cares about is in no way specific to chess or to games of the same type as chess, as any good that is, in the sense in which I use the expression, internal to the practice of chess must be. For he could have achieved precisely the same good, that of winning and its contingent rewards, in any other field in which there is competition and there are victors, had he been able to achieve a comparable level of skill in those fields. Hence what he cares about and what he achieves as his good is not that kind of excellence which is specific to chess and the kind of enjoyment that supervenes upon such excellence, a good which far less skilled players may at their own level achieve."

Edited by Lazzarone

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Question for you kevin,

How do you articulate an alternative without falling into the same value claims that you are critiquing?

 

Wouldn't telling the judge to vote negative to favor a teleological based ethics still be an "expression of preference?" Would you be willing to defend a universal and absolute morality as MacIntyre calls for in a debate round?

 

These are just curiosity questions, as I'm reading "After Virtue," which I find to be interesting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

well, you need to win that if the debate is interminable, you win, which i imagine can be accomplished in more than a few ways. for instance, if you're defending the negative, you might argue for presumption. (remember, what you're winning is that plan is just as senseless as claiming to do science in a post-apocalyptic age, where all that's being done is piecing together scraps of old texts - a la canticle for lebowitz.) another way would be to argue that if debate is an intrinsically-valuable practice (which macintyre connects to the notions of 'narratives' and 'goods'), then what's good for debate is to refuse to participate in the advancement of any position that fails to acknowledge moral interminablility. it's not that debate requires emotivism (i.e., 'the judge still expresses some preference'), it's that debate is still perceived as emotivist - which is a link to the kritik. further, you could argue that you've presented the only narrative about why debate is the way it is - that's worth valuing. so, there's lots of options, and more alternatives than i've presented here. plus, there's always the double-loss for when you hit a good team and get in trouble. =P

Edited by Lazzarone

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Heya kevin,

 

so as always i do enjoy the new meta-kritiks that you expound here. i've actually been doing a lot of reading in the realm of virtue and morals and while i haven't read any macintyre im a bit confused just based on this discussion:

 

on the one hand it seems as if this position advocates, like nietzsche does (pre-ubermensch solution), that we should move beyond the days of certainty, universal ethics claims and morality in the pejorative sense of the word. in other words, that we should transition into the extra-moral period where scholars, science, Truth claims and the like are questioned and rejected.

 

but on the other hand this position advocates aristotelian teleology, which is the godfather of moral truth claims and certainty of forms.

 

then the next problem is this: if the link of an argument hinges upon the perceived representation of an activity "perceived emotivism" you're got a huge problem on your hands in prescribing knowledge of another person/team's motives and the articulation of that link become very difficult.

 

i enjoy it because the concept of being beyond or after virtue is interesting but on the one hand it sounds elitist, on the other nihilist, on the next self-contradictory (which now can't be resolved with d&g, seeing as how they and macintyre would wholly disagree).

 

all the best,

cal

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

macintyre's position is that all modern attempts to ground morality - the kantian, the utilitarian - have failed, and that nietzsche's stance - morality cannot be rationally vindicated - is true of every such attempt except for aristotelian thomism. being 'post-virtue' simply means we live in a time that has lost its ethical bearings, in part destroyed by the enlightenment, and that when we think we're engaging in moral debate, we're actually engaged in a false substitute, an intractable, irresolvable sham. you'll find 'emotivist' premises in most policy debate arguments, which is why much of the book 'after virtue' targets bureaucratic managers. so there are a lot of shared theses between heidegger, habermas, foucault, baudrillard, ranciere, agamben and this fellow macintyre, especially in their common rejection of what we might loosely call 'technocracy'. only macintyre gives us an alternative foundation for moral claims - one that can pick up ballots from even the most christian conservative of judges. =P

 

"if the link of an argument hinges upon the perceived representation of an activity "perceived emotivism" you're got a huge problem on your hands in prescribing knowledge of another person/team's motives and the articulation of that link become very difficult."

 

it's neither perception nor motives; there are specific links to what passes for policy debate today, and to the unarticulated millsian and weberian assumptions underlying it. this is not to say that our activity has to be emotivist, or that all debate is futile, but instead that the traditional ways of playing the game link, which is why the kritik ought to be advanced. (in post #13, i should've said 'practiced' instead of 'perceived'.) one of the best cards was in the 'death of policy debate?'-thread, but it has since been deleted, so i'll have to retype it soon; the tag was:

 

'real world policymaking' is a fiction used to disguise arbitrary preferences with purportedly objective claims and to excuse one's own participation in the charade of power.

Edited by Lazzarone

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I understand the critique against real-world policymaking praxis in debate and honestly kevin between the rawlsian ethics k and the d&g narrative k and aff I've been running this year, no "straight up" team other than gonzaga's top team, has beaten us. and while the aim isn't winning I really feel as if these ideas have sparked difference in their victory (much like you proved in j23 thread, that winning is what makes ideas popular thus giving them credence, yet another now proven inherent weakness in the policy world).

 

i just found a pdf version of after virtue and am on chapter 4 (sunday night and no homework makes for good reading lol). his thesis on morality becomes extremely clear given the kamehameha --> nietzsche --> post-enlightenment moral discourse illustration.

 

my question is this: how would this kind of message fair against something like the revolutionary ethic/race arguments of cal state fullerton or townsend. somehow i know painting an opposing team as racist or even debate praxis as such is emotivist and wrong when used to win a debate. and i haven't hit these teams yet but for some reason in division one this matchup is much anticipated.

 

for me, however, its moreso a match of Truth claims, much like when zeno and the eleactics went head to head with the pythagoreans and zeno triumphed with his 4 paradoxes. i believe our arguments about the revisement of certainty and fortitude of moral-rebirth is intrinsically more valuable and correct (dare I say) than painting a dichotomy between races and pointing fingers.

 

how would macintyre and this attack on emotivism/capitalism work specifically against this?

 

(btw, this kritik would be the absolute perfect argument against capitalism Ks, its a straight turn and solvency absolver.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

harping on that last point, near the very end of 'after virtue' (pages 260-3), macintyre explicates his answers to marxism/anti-capitalism proper.

 

his criticism comes from the opposite direction than is typical: he dismisses the comparison to stalinism, writing "the barbarious depotism of the collective Tsardom which reigns in Moscow can be taken to be as irrelevant to the question of the moral substance of Marxism as the life of the Borgia pope was to that of the moral substance of Christianity", and concedes that marxism is still "one of the richest sources of ideas about modern society".

 

nevertheless, he contends that marxism is still too tied to liberal individualism, to weberian bureaucracy, and it remains naively hopeful that "within the society constituted by [capitalist and bourgeois] institutions, all the human and material preconditions of a better future are being accumulated". in practice, communism either becomes 'capitalism with a human face' (to paraphrase zizek) or revolutionary fantasy; so, it provides "no tolerable alternative set of political and economic structures which could be brought into place to replace the structures of advanced capitalism". it's thus "exhausted as a political tradition".

 

then macintyre gives us a glimpse of his alternative in the final paragraph: we must cease to identify with the barbarians who rule us and construct "local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the dark ages which are already upon us". basically, an underground.

 

"my question is this: how would this kind of message fair against something like the revolutionary ethic/race arguments of cal state fullerton or townsend. somehow i know painting an opposing team as racist or even debate praxis as such is emotivist and wrong when used to win a debate. and i haven't hit these teams yet but for some reason in division one this matchup is much anticipated. for me, however, its moreso a match of Truth claims, much like when zeno and the eleactics went head to head with the pythagoreans and zeno triumphed with his 4 paradoxes. i believe our arguments about the revisement of certainty and fortitude of moral-rebirth is intrinsically more valuable and correct (dare I say) than painting a dichotomy between races and pointing fingers. how would macintyre and this attack on emotivism/capitalism work specifically against this?"

 

well i'd have to hear the setup, but my guess is they'd struggle to find a link, considering that many of macintyre's arguments can be used to support schools of thought like critical race theory (the role of narrative, the failure of rights-talk, for examples). although i can't recall reading anything he's said about race or racism specifically (i'm sure it's in his enormous body of work somewhere), i think macintyre would express the same reservations about the current civil rights movement as martin luther king, jr. did - that is, are we integrating into a burning house?. his alternative of local community or undergrounds also seems to have a lot in common with the more realistic yet radical contingents of the black separatist movement. and, of course, if your opponents are still touting liberal individualism/emotivism, they'll link to your position more than you'll link to theirs.

 

or just ask 'em if they voted for barack obama, then run this: http://www.nd.edu/~ndethics/archives/macintyre.shtml

=)

 

_

 

did find these after a quick web-search: (1) http://books.google.com/books?id=LGtgiC28OGYC (2) Cornel West, "Neo-Aristotelianism, Liberalism, and Socialism: A Christian Perspective." In Christianity and Capitalism: Perspectives on Religion, Liberalism and the Economy, ed. Bruse Grelle (Chicago: Center for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1986), pp. 79-89. Reprinted as "Alasdair MacIntyre, Liberalism, and Socialism: A Christian Perspective" in Prophetic Fragments (1988), pp. 124-136.

Edited by Lazzarone

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
then macintyre gives us a glimpse of his alternative in the final paragraph: we must cease to identify with the barbarians who rule us and construct "local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the dark ages which are already upon us". basically, an underground.

What do you mean by "an underground"? Does MacIntyre provide any reasons to prefer an underground to other forms of local community?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

oh, in 'the tasks of philosophy', pages 121-2 (right after the part quoted in post #7), there's also a takeout to "the revolutionary ethic/race arguments" already mentioned,

 

And when someone does seriously attempt to embody the coherence of theory in her or his social relationships, then generally and characteristically her or his actions and their consequences will be so effectively shaped and straight-jacketed by the professionalization of procedures, by the compartmentalization of role structures, and by the negotiated aggregation of costs and benefits that even if that person should become aware of the discrepancies between their political profession ... on the one hand and what actually happens in contemporary social practice on the other, that awareness will of itself have at most negligible power to alter matters.

 

this lines up with gordon mitchell's debate-specific claim that, even

 

in 'kritik rounds,' where the political status and meaning of the participants' own discourse is up for grabs, the contest round framework tends to freeze the discussion into bipolar, zero-sum terms that highlight competitive payoffs at the expense of opportunities for co-operative 'rethinking'.

 

thus, any position that fails to take into account what macintyre's position takes as the starting-point will have a negligible impact on actual social relationships.

 

so, what's the alternative?, or in macintyre's phrasing on page 122, "under what conditions can this type of social deformation be avoided or escaped?" his answer is on the same page: "alternative institutions, to some degree insulated from the contemporary social order". that insular aspect is why i referred to his alternative as an 'underground' in the sense that these institutions operate below the dominant monoculture. macintyre is quite critical of communitarianism and resentful of being categorized withthem (as he's also critical of 'local sites of resistance' a la foucault).

 

in other words, what has been treated as a weakness of academic debate should be seen as its redeeming strength, something to build upon. and rather than struggle for inclusion we should not only be content but, in fact, "anxious to be excluded from and marginalized by the dominant trends of our social life" (same page, emphasis mine).

 

so macintyre's question for "the revolutionary ethic/race"-crowd is, why would you ever want to integrate into a burning house? even mitchell has tempered his former advocacy of an 'outward activist turn' in debate to appreciate debate's insularity (see post-script). rather than try to use debate in order to change the outside world, why not change debate in order to isolate it from the outside world? why not embrace the margin?

 

Rimbaud said it all on this point: only he or she can invoke race who says, "I have always been of an inferior race. . . I am of an inferior race for all eternity . . . I am a beast, a nigger . . ."

- deleuze & guattari, 'treatise on nomadology - the war machine'.

 

Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

- debs, 'statement to the court upon being convicted of violating the sedition act'.

 

How can the so-called Negroes who call themselves enlightened leaders expect the poor black sheep to integrate into a society of bloodthirsty white wolves, white wolves who have already been sucking on our blood for over four hundred years here in America? Or will these black sheep also revolt against the "false shepherd" ... and seek complete separation so that we can escape from the den of the wolves rather than be integrated with wolves in this wolves' den?

- x, 'the black revolution'.

 

_____

 

p.s., Gordon Mitchell. Strategic Deception: Rhetoric, Science and Politics in Missile Defense Advocacy (2000), pages xvi-xvii.

 

The world of intercollegiate policy debate is an odd and magical place, where a spirit of keen competition drives debaters to amass voluminous research in preparation for tournaments, and where the resulting density of ideas spurs speakers to cram arguments into strictly timed presentation periods during contest rounds. Expert judges trained in policy analysis keep track of such contests as they unfold at breakneck speed, with speakers routinely delivering intricate argumentation at over 300 words per minute. To the uninitiated onlooker, this style of debate reveals itself as an unintelligible charade, something like a movie-length Federal Express commercial or an auctioneering competition gone bad. But there are rich rewards for participants who master policy debate's special vocabulary, learn its arcane rules, and acclimate themselves to the style of rapid-fire speaking needed to keep up with the flow of arguments. The rigorous dialectical method of debate analysis cultivates a panoramic style of critical thinking that elucidates subtle interconnections among multiple positions and perspectives on policy controversies. The intense pressure of debate competition instills a relentless research ethic in participants. An inverted pyramid dynamic embedded in the format of contest rounds teaches debaters to synthesize and distill their initial positions down to the most cogent propositions for their final speeches. . . .

 

Perhaps the most strange and idiosyncratic aspect of the contemporary intercollegiate debate community is that, by and large, it keeps to itself. Contrary to the populist tradition of debate as the quintessential genre of public discourse, contemporary intercollegiate debate is an insular and specialized academic activity. The research products generated by thousands of debaters nation-wide are generally put toward a singular end: winning tournament competitions. Sometimes this insularity appears absurd to those who stumble across a slice of the debate community for the first time. In the summer of 1990, Madison Laird (then captain of the Loyola University debate squad) was assigned the task of entertaining Earth Day organizer Bill Keepin during Keepin¹s visit to the Loyola campus in Los Angeles, California. After Keepin delivered a speech on nuclear power to the student body, Laird led him on a campus tour that ended up in the debate squad room, where yards and yards of argument briefs were stowed away in filing drawers. When Keepin asked to see the files containing research on nuclear power, Laird pulled open one file drawer stuffed to the gills with high-quality research. Keepin was stunned, asking incredulously "how long have you folks kept this stuff locked up?!"

 

p.p.s., Alasdair MacIntyre. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, Third Edition (2007), page 274.

 

Imagine an immensely skilled chess player who cares only about winning and cares for that very much. His skills are such that he ranks with the grandmasters. Thus he is a great chess player. But since what he cares about is only winning - and perhaps the goods contingently attached to winning, goods such as fame, prestige, and money - the good that he cares about is in no way specific to chess or to games of the same type as chess, as any good that is, in the sense in which I use the expression, internal to the practice of chess must be. For he could have achieved precisely the same good, that of winning and its contingent rewards, in any other field in which there is competition and there are victors, had he been able to achieve a comparable level of skill in those fields. Hence what he cares about and what he achieves as his good is not that kind of excellence which is specific to chess and the kind of enjoyment that supervenes upon such excellence, a good which far less skilled players may at their own level achieve.
Edited by Lazzarone

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmm...

 

The first reading of After Virtue should be done by Tuesday. Let me post back then. I have questions I just don't quite know how to articulate it yet.

 

Thanks kevin.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ehh, I've never been particularly persuaded by virtue ethics, it never seems to get much further than begging the question. Plus, if you want to construct some kind of value framework rather than just letting moral decisions be completely subjective (which, okay, you can choose to be a relativist), then virtue ethics never seems to really build an evaluative toolkit with any real power to make distinctions.

 

On the framework of the K Lazzarone laid out: you're confusing ethics and meta-ethics here. I would caution you not to conflate all non-VE moral theories with emotivism.

 

VE is a morality that attempts to be based on character traits as opposed to acts (which is pretty dominant in Christian and post-Christian moral theorizing after Hellenism).

 

Emotivism is a position in meta-ethics that moral claims express disapproval for an act rather than statements which are provably true or false around the world, and it's sometimes known as the "hurray/boo" theory - that saying "lying is wrong" is equivalent to saying "Lying! Boo!". It's contrasted with cognitivism - that saying "Lying is wrong" is equivalent to saying that the act of lying has certain facts about it, among which is the moral fact that lying is wrong, and that the statement itself could be proven true or false through some kind of investigation.

 

I could be a cognitivist virtue ethicist (although MacIntyre is opposed to emotivism, I'm not aware of what his replacement for it is) and say stuff like "sentences about honor and charity and bravery have definite, logical meaning" or I could be a emotivist virtue ethicist and say "sentences about bravery really mean 'bravery! woo!'" or I could even be some other kind of non-cognitivist virtue ethicist.

 

Which means that, in terms of ethics, there's no necessary contradiction between anti-emotivism on the one hand and moral values other than virtues (such as act-based moralities) on the other. There's all kinds of things you can appeal to to preserve act-based morality - util, social contract theory, psychological egoism, Kant, and probably others I can't think of right now. In fact, util probably lends itself better to a foundation in cognitivism (which is about as diametrically opposed to emotivism as you can get).

 

 

That said, I like the framework of the K, and if you're actually willing to do an in-depth discussion of ethics and meta-ethics in-round at the level of ethics and meta-ethics (I've usually seen people appealing to consequences instead - why have a framework debate if you're just going to base it in util anyway?) I think it could be highly interesting and educational.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

well, technically speaking, macintyre is not really a virtue ethicist (a point he makes in the above lecture). though he's certainly partially responsible for the renewed attention virtue ethics has received over the past forty years, he's an aristotelian thomist, which i bet he'd argue does "build an evaluative toolkit with ... real power to make distinctions". in fact, he comes close to saying that no critique of kantianism or utilitarianism is convincing, ultimately, unless it's grounded in aristotelian principles (and aquinas' elaboration of same).

 

the argument i find most interesting in this literature, and the one i'd most like to hear deployed in an actual round, is the claim - unique to macintyre as far as i know - that debate today is interminable. i want to see a team win on the argument that the debate can't be decided, that we lack impersonal criteria for preferring one course of action over another on moral terms, and that the open recognition of this condition should take priority over both the fiat and kritik game.

 

so if you watch the above lecture, cross-apply what macintyre says about academic moral philosophy to academic debate, and see what sticks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...