Morality - Point 14
UNDER CONSTRUCTION, QUOTES ONLY
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“The actual institutions in which we live, as opposed to ideal-typical ones, are both structurally and ideologically mixed. In each social situation and institution we actually experience, we have all these ethical styles and traditions in our heads, however fragmentarily or unevenly represented, ringing more or less true to the practical activities, roles and relations of that situation and of our own history. The distinctions of ethical outlook we actually adopt, then, are rarely all-or-nothing, mutually exclusive matters. They are more nearly matters of mixture: Which ethical style will predominate in which situation? Which style will order the interrelation of other styles and the elements of tradition in a given situation and for whom? Particular persons and groups combine and recombine moral traditions and styles in mixtures of meaning specific to particular social situations and problems.
“This perspective rebuts ethical absolutism without confirming ethical relativism. For in each situation and with each problem, institutionally arranged and enacted as they are, persons frame practical moral questions and answers in search of alternative responses that are intelligible, justifiable, and therefore public in their cultural coherence. To guide my moral decisions, I am seeking criteria that I can communicate coherently and persuasively to others, not rationalizations I can use to mask my arbitrariness. I am seeking moral guidance not just for myself, but for anyone in my situation. Institutionally embedded and dramatically enacted as it is, such guidance is not simply a matter of universalizing from each person to every rational subject or free citizen, abstractly conceived, but neither is it simply a statement of personal intent or group interest. For we cannot make the modes of moral discourse and the moral drama of institutions mean whatever we wish and still make sense to ourselves and others, which is what we must do in order to live as social beings.” Tipton, Steven. “Social Differentiation and Moral Pluralism.” pp. 15-40. Madsen, Richard & William Sullivan, Ann Swidler, Steven Tipton. Meaning and Modernity: Religion Polity and Self. University of California Press. 2002. pp. 38-9.
“The mythology of the war of all against all that threatens to engulf civilization if morality is not enforced is told only by those who have withdrawn from the people the basic morality that sociability has imposed for millions of years on animals in groups. This should be obvious but is not–because, unfortunately, moral philosophy is a narcotic as addictive as epistemology, and we cannot easily kick the habit of thinking that the demos lacks morality as totally as it lacks epistemic knowledge.” Latour, Bruno. Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Harvard University Press. 1999. p. 255.
“On the one hand, the diversity of moral outlooks surrounding each individual in a modern society encourages her to distance herself from any single outlook and relativize all of them in order to enact each one in the social role and practices specific to it: efficient worker, expressive lover, law-abiding citizen, lifestylish consumer, authoritative yet caring parent, faithful believer, and so on. The institutional multiplication of moral ideals accounts for the apparently inconsistent and self-contradictory cosmologies modern individuals hold simultaneously, and the ‘eccentric’ moral hybrids they compose from various traditions.” Tipton, Steven. “Social Differentiation and Moral Pluralism.” pp. 15-40. Madsen, Richard & William Sullivan, Ann Swidler, Steven Tipton. Meaning and Modernity: Religion Polity and Self. University of California Press. 2002. p. 33.
"When we turn to the famous, now classic critiques of epistemology, we find that they have, in fact, mostly been attuned to this interpenetration of the scientific and the moral. Hegel, in his celebrated attack on this tradition in the introduction to the Phenomenology of Spirit, speaks of a 'fear of error' that 'reveals itself rather as fear of the truth,' and he goes on to show how this stance is bound up with a certain aspiration to individuality and separateness, refusing what he sees as the 'truth' of subject-object identity. Heidegger notoriously treats the rise of the modern epistemological standpoint as a stage in the development of a stance of domination to the world, which culminates in contemporary technological society. Merleau-Ponty draws more explicitly political connections and clarifies the alternative notion of freedom that arises from the critique of empiricism and intellectualism. The moral consequences of the devastating critique of epistemology in the later Wittgenstein are, naturally, less evident. Wittgenstein was strongly averse to making this kind of thing explicit. But those who have followed him have shown a certain affinity for the critique of disengagement, instrumental reason, and atomism.
"It is safe to say that all these critics were largely motivated by a dislike of the moral and spiritual consequences of epistemology and by a strong affinity for some alternative." K. Baynes, J. Bohman, & T. McCarthy. After Philosophy: End or Transformation? MIT Press, 1987. Charles Taylor. "Overcoming Epistemology." pp. 472-3.
Interlocking both primary societies fosters a morality that respects both the larger society (the conceptscape) and the particular of the individual so that neither is imposed on the other. This avoids the asphyxiation of the individual or the relativizing of all values, and it promotes real aesthetics of living so that beautiful moral societies can take shape. By avowing the open beauty of societies morality is not just a “personal code” because the society of the code is brought out as a public entity and meshed with other social concerns.
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Page updated 3/5/03