Saturday, December 06, 2003

Lets see how much I can pack in here. (I'll fix it later)

From a series of posts here Quoting a law review article:
For morality to guide us appropriately, she argues, we need to know what it would be best to do (with full information), not what it is best to do given the imperfect information that we actually often have. But I think this is wrong, or at least overstated. Yes, it does help to know what would be best to do ex post (given full info). But it is also critical to have principles guiding our actions in cases of imperfect info. We want people to make reasonable choices ex ante about using defensive force etc. So we want them to make reasonable and (ex ante) justifiable inquiry into the facts, though not so much inquiry that this disables them from acting in a timely manner etc. In short, we don't actually want people, in all cases, to come as close as possible to full information before acting; for that might lead to an even higher probability of (ex post) unjustifiable acts. The principles we should adopt to guide action should consider, not just what would be the best thing to do ex post, but what are the best informational and action strategies for getting there.
Of course she's wrong. I'm amazed such arguments are still made, but as long as philosophy is centered on a search for solutions -for mechanisms- rather than on the definition of problems they will be, and the same fights will be held over and over in the classroom rather than in the courts where they belong.

On a similar point, relating to a discussion of the conceptualization of mistakes as 'justifications' or 'excuses':
All depends upon what the substantive normativity of a given criminal law regime is best understood to provide -- a question that is largely anthropological
I posted to comment on this post. I went off half cocked, but raised a couple of interesting questions I think.

A soldier who kills an enemy in battle is morally responsible for the death of another, but is not morally responsible for the 'crime' of murder. Given this, when are the questions of law not "anthropological?"

I'm understanding more and more why I never became an academic. It's not just because I'm lazy. I'm sick to death of people who have ideas, and ideas about ideas, and responses to ideas about ideas.
Ideas are easy and there aren't very many of them around to have. The long quote above about morality and principles comes from a discussion between people who have 'ideas,' but the interesting subject is not that of ideas but conflicts.

Law is not about ideas but about the conflict between/among them. The Bourgeoisie is not a homogeneous entity but an agglomeration of those whose common position is one of doubt. "What are we?!" This doubt is the engine that so fascinated Marx. The re-asking of this question, the rediscovery of this struggle is what engaged Michelangelo and Shakespeare. Go to the Academia in Florence and look at blocks of stone that do not illustrate but make manifest an unresolved and unresolvable dialectic of a man at war with himself. I posted something about this in relation to the more skillful but less complex Bernini a few months ago. The banality of science, and I'm really getting comfortable with that term now, is that it goes only in one direction, and struggles for only one thing, and this thing it calls 'truth.' But truth is a metaphysical concept. The struggles of science are for facts: banal in themselves. It's the desire that makes science morally profound, and any desire that is not self-reflexive is dangerous. It has nothing to go up against. "After all," science asks "What opposes 'truth' but ignorance?"
What is the relationship of the individual to the state, and of the state to the individual?
Who's in the right?
It all depends.
On what?
On who makes the best argument this time around.
According to what logic?
An imperfect one.
[And What's the difference between the collective and the state?]
This is where the action is. This is where the stakes are high. This is what's fun.
On The Natural History of Destruction.

Michael Kimmelman has a piece in The Times today which as luck would have it includes a discussion of the book I didn't succeed in polishing off last night. Sebald describes the avoidance of memory in post war Germany, the memory of the violence done to the German people, in the context of the denial of the violence perpetrated by them. He also relates this to the sort of autistic hyper-functionality that defined the post war state and population. But he also includes a discussion of "Bomber" Harris, and the British decision to bomb civilian populations even when hitting industrial sites would have been more useful to the war effort. And he does all this alongside a brilliant discussion of those who had been victims of the regime, who considered it their duty to remember, and of its servants, who claimed to speak for memory while absolving themselves of responsibility.

Aber etwas fehlt.

I remember in the mid 80's reading a memoir by Canetti, "The Play of the Eyes," soon after reading Primo Levi, and finding Levi flat by comparison. There was almost no art left in Levi's writing. The text was so self-effacing, so humble in its search for the memory of others that art would seem an indulgence. I preferred the arrogance and indulgence of Canetti, of the one who escaped intact.

Sebald discusses Peter Weiss'...
struggle against 'the art of forgetting,' a struggle that is as much a part of life as melancholy is a part of death, a struggle consisting in the constant transfer of recollection into written signs. Despite our fits of 'absence' and 'weakness' writing is an attempt 'to preserve our equilibrium among the living with all our dead within us, as we lament the dead and with our own death before our eyes, in order to set memory to work, since it alone justifies survival in the shadow of a mountain of guilt... The artistic self also engages personally in such a reconstruction, pledging itself, as Weiss sees it to set up a memorial, and the painful nature of that process could be said to ensure the continuance of memory.
It's only human to forget.

I scrawled this in the back of the book a couple of days ago.
"Unlike Levi and (Jean ) Améry and Weiss/ the men who no longer have the luxury of forgetting, of remaking, of lying, of art. The emptiness of those who must become memory machines, of those who must become unhuman to document the memory of others. Suicide the only end."
The memory machines are the tragic parallel to the forgetting machines of the German post war miracle.
It's odd no one discusses this.

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