Tuesday, February 23, 2010

serendipity, I guess.
In reference to the last post. The update is funny. But the debate is interesting.
As always the point is not that there's no such thing as reason but that the question remains: "Who watches the [self-appointed] watchmen?"
[2/24:Read the comments by and in response to "Megan." There is no communication in language without politics.]

In his previous post Leiter links to Raymond Geuss. Reading the piece you have to think Leiter links to him out of some vague deference, if not to superiority at least as another member of the priesthood; even if that man politely mocks everything Leiter professes. I can't think of Leiter without thinking of his fondness for Timothy Williamson:

"Impatience with the long haul of technical reflection is a form of shallowness, often thinly disguised by histrionic advocacy of depth.”

Geuss is trying to come to terms with what Leiter ignores, but his language is vague and poeticizing: He write as a fan, someone more interested in the poetic than -to use my term- the "poemic." I'll repeat a passage I quoted 6 months ago, by Hermann Broch:
Although art is no longer a part of the religious system, having become autonomous like all other value-systems since the breakup of that all-encompassing system of religion, reinforcing this autonomy with the principle of l'art pour l'art, nonetheless, art even today has set down its own private theology in a series of aesthetic theories, and continues to hold to its highest value-goal, and this, too, continues to hover in the realm of the infinite, be it called "beauty," "harmony" or whatever else. And the ethical demand made of the artist is, as always, to produce "good" works, and only the dilettante and the producer of kitsch (whom we meet here for the first time) focus their work on beauty.

For the esthetic in general as an expression of the supreme ultimate value of a sustem can influence the result of ethical action only secondarily, just as "wealth" is not the main goal but the side effect of individual commercial activity. And "wealth" itself is an irrational concept. It is an almost mystical process, the setting of ethical values: Arising from the irrational, transforming the irrational to the rational, yet nonetheless it is the irrational that radiates from within the resulting form.
Philosophers are interested in "Truth" and "Beauty." Artists like lawyers are craftsmen and tradesmen first. Philosophical art as Baudelaire saw, avant la lettre, is Kitsch. This is something Geuss the late modern philosopher doesn't quite get. Leiter and Williamson however as late modernists of another sort, as intellectual bureaucrats, are simply vulgarians and pedants. And pedantry as I've said, is a form of irrationalism.

Geuss: "Since neither a picture nor a poem is an argument, neither is a suitable object for counterargument."

That's wrong. Pictures and poems are a kind of argument. A lawyer in a courtroom is said to make "arguments" even though he's speaking on behalf a paying client. His defense of that client is predicated on falseness: his loyalty is to the court. The court itself represents "truth" but only in its process, not in any given result. Within the rules of the court the only goal is victory.
A lawyer makes a kind of argument, and so does a poet. Poets at work, again as I've said (I'm repeating myself a lot these days) are not unlike Ronald Dworkin's Hercules. Philosophers who don't understand art, or law, don't understand democracy.

But I want to read P.M.S. Hacker.
There was a time when I thought Dworkin's Hercules was meant to describe an ideal judge's earnest attempt to call 'em as he sees 'em: to 'find' a logical, formal, consistency across the questions of the case and his perceptions as a member of a political/linguistic/cultural community. Now I can't tell if Dworkin was shrouding his moral realism in a fog of language, or shrouding the argument described above in a fog of truthiness. There was no reason for him not to be clear. There may have been a personal need on his part not to be.

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