Sunday, November 10, 2013

In a recent comment on the post about Greene’s work on moral psychology and moral philosophy, Seth Edenbaum made a passing remark about trolley problems and the standpoint of victims.
The post itself continues along the lines of a formal epistemology of morality, beggaring questions of the nature of formalism itself.

My first response to the earlier post is here. Also relevant, and just above, here. Or just scroll down.

I posted a total of three comments on the new post, none of which have been accepted, so either Leiter told him that he shouldn't have allowed the first one, or Nadelhoffer is just being snide.  That's not the problem. If it's Nadelhoffer's choice, he referred to me by name and hasn't allowed me to respond; that becomes a question not just of condescension but the power politics of cowardice.

My comments
I'll be brief since I don't think it will change the debate on this page.
-Our adversarial system of justice is built on the assumption that vantage points are a given, and that formalist systems of morality, or formal epistemology, get us nowhere. Due process of law refers to a formalism of process not of truth. Similarly our system of government is a system of decision-making not truth-finding. Greene's arguments don't seem much like discoveries to those who follow the history of human action, or the writing about it, and the response here seems more to come from an engrained Platonism. "Greene wants to persuade us that moral psychology is more fundamental than moral philosophy."  What evidence is there against that assumption?

-You can argue with Leiter that judges are swayed by ideology, but why should judges be any different that they rest of us? And political and legal realism requires that philosophers are no more exceptional than judges, while arguments for formal epistemology, to take the example at hand, are predicated on the intellectual and moral significance of ideas founded it seems to me in little more than hope.

-Perspectivism is the foundation of democracy; aristocracy not so much. It makes sense that the philosophical fixation on "the other" originates in cultures that operate under the inquisitorial rather than adversarial system of justice, and have a shorter history of democracy. Jack Balkin's view is that the Supreme Court "is sort of like the husband in the French farce. He's always the last to know."  Most practicing lawyers would say that lawyers are the center of our justice system. But philosophers identify with judges and so focus on them.

-The role of an aristocracy, even an intellectual aristocracy, in a democracy is hard to define. I think its best it stayed that way. Formal epistemology (even if it's not as I would call it an oxymoron) needs to be tested by observation much more than it has.
[Commenter Roger Albin responding to the OP: "In an army in wartime, is a soldier justified in refusing an order to serve in a frontline unit as opposed to a safer rear echelon unit?"

Roger Albin,
The military "solves" the trolley problem within military society by forbidding fraternization between enlisted and officers. Common sense morality functions as a system of morality among equals. Deciding the fate of your friends, if you were even capable of it, would tend to weaken your friendships.  The military is not a democracy. I don't want a democratic military any more than I want generals running the country.
"Military justice is to justice what military music is to music" etc.

Military authoritarianism demands and end to free and open sociability. Utilitarian universalism demands the end of intimacy across the board.
Commenter S. Wallerstein, answering another comment by Sam Rickless.
"Since when is it permissible for persons to kill others in order to prevent them from doing something permissible?"

I'm not a professional philosopher and I may be missing something, but let's say that there's a lifeboat with 10 people and if one more person gets into the lifeboat, it will sink. I'm out of the lifeboat and I'll trying to get into it (or to make room for my son in it). There's a person in the lifeboat trying to prevent my son from getting into it (because when my son gets into it, the whole lifeboat will sink with the ten people aboard, none of who can swim or have lifejackets.) Now it seems permissible for the person in the lifeboat to do whatever she can (including shooting my son and me) to keep my son out. It also seems permissible for me to shoot that person (assume that I have a gun) so that she falls into the water and leaves room for my son in the boat.
My final comment was to say that Rickless had made my point, that a non-contradictory formal logic of liberal morality was impossible.

A journalist acquaintance (not American) on FB
When it comes to France the Saudis are investing heavily in French agricultural, defence and food sectors. The farmers of Brittany have laid off thousands of workers of late and a Saudi firm is stepping in take control of 52% of Doux, a poultry firm based there. Just one example of the massive spending spree the Saudi's are on. France also has massive investments in Israel and vice versa. According to the French foreign ministry France is the 9th supplier and the 7th client of Israel. In the recent years major projects like a desalinisation plant from Veolia in Askhelon or the electric vehicle project with Renault have occurred.
Also @ Foreign Policy: How France Scuttled The Iran Deal at the Last Minute
and here, and elsewhere.

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