MD the ideology of capitalism

From: Sam Norton (
Date: Tue May 03 2005 - 22:11:10 BST

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    Hi Mark,

    I thought this may as well have its own thread as it is separate from the
    religious questions.

    In the 'Access to Quality' thread I quoted Alasdair MacIntyre, and then
    said: What really strikes me as odd is that, for someone so lucidly critical
    of modern ideologies in the political and economic spheres, you seem
    remarkably at home with the very same ideology in the philosophical sphere -
    which is ironic, in that it is precisely the ideology which you are here
    defending which provides the main justification for the practices which you
    so cogently condemn elsewhere.

    I also said, in the religion/science thread: I don't think it's possible to
    'create our own purposes'. I may have quoted this before, in discussion with
    DMB, but I still think it important (Iris Murdoch, quoted in Fergus Kerr's
    'Theology After Wittgenstein'): "How recognisable, how familiar to us, is
    the man so beautifully portrayed [by Kant] who confronted even with Christ
    turns away to consider the judgement of his own conscience and to hear the
    voice of his own reason. Stripped of the exiguous metaphysical background
    which Kant was prepared to allow him, this man is with us still, free,
    independent, lonely, powerful, rational, responsible, brave, the hero of so
    many novels and books of moral philosophy." Kerr goes on to say "...the
    picture of the self-conscious and self-reliant, self-transparent and
    all-responsible individual which Descartes and Kant between them imposed
    upon modern philosophy.... is a picture of the self that many modern
    philosophers, Wittgenstein certainly among them, have striven to revise,
    incorporate into a larger design, or simply obliterate." Is it not at all
    disquieting that this ideology (the glorification of human choice) should a)
    be born at the same time as SOM, b) be the dominant ideology of US/Western
    culture and therefore, c) be a very good example of a socially reinforced
    pattern of thought?

    The drivers for the above comments were your claim that "existentialists
    believe there are no answers "out there" and therefore maximize their
    freedom and create their own purposes in life", and your comment to Matt
    "The concept of liberty, personal freedom, is immediately accessible to
    everyone. No one needs to be told that freedom is better than being buried
    alive. That the concept of God is not immediately accessible to everyone is
    obvious in that not everyone believes in God. Pirsig's Quality, like Mill's
    Liberty, is immediately accessible to everyone. This, I suggest, is why
    belief in God is idolatrous and belief in Quality or Freedom or Liberty or
    Equality is not."

    Now, it seems to me that:
    a) modern capitalism gears up at the same time as SOM;
    b) it is given an intellectual articulation and defence by (principally)
    Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill, building on foundations laid by Locke;
    c) that intellectual articulation and defence is geared around the
    desirability of maximising "human freedom";
    d) that "human freedom" presupposes an anthropology along the Kantian lines
    that MacIntyre, Murdoch and Kerr (and most of all Charles Taylor) delineate;
    e) the flaws in the anthropology are one of the major reasons why capitalism
    so often has inhumane consequences, and why it is resisted by many cultures
    (eg Islam);
    f) it is the natural bed-fellow of the defenders of the economic status quo,
    like your good friend GWBush.

    I guess it is d) or possibly e) where we disagree, but I thought I'd unpick
    the steps along the way (there might be more) because it might make any
    disagreements clearer. What's interesting is that I think I'm a) more
    pro-capitalism than you are, and b) less enamoured of the notion of human
    freedom (in that I think freedom is meaningless without a functioning
    society - the fourth level is dependent upon a healthy third level).

    I just find it notable that you seem to be in bed with Ayn Rand -
    "Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom; political
    freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market
    are corollaries."

    By the way, I realise I'm missing some of the humour (ie not responding to
    it). I'm just pressed for time, so if I'm being po-faced, I apologise :o)


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