Re: MD secular humanism and dynamic quality

From: Sam Norton (
Date: Wed Apr 07 2004 - 12:05:42 BST

  • Next message: David Morey: "MD Re: The mystical conceptual divide"

    Hi Matt,

    This is a shorter reply than I was planning, but I think that it will move us on sufficiently for
    the time being. You said:

    "The point on Hobbes I see as just the point we both seem to agree on: a secular political sphere, a
    separation of church and state. However, from the very beginning you hinted at reservations ("I
    think you have something of a case there," rather than "You're absolutely right!") and possible
    change. This is what leads you to say, "there will come a time when 'peaceful co-existence'
    maintains less Quality than an alternative." However, I don't see how we can move to from
    Hobbesianism to anything but Kantianism. I read you here as saying that Hobbes is all we can hope
    for right now, but Kant is where we want to be. As Hobbesian through and through, I don't see this
    at all. The Kantian tradition says that consensus is _fated_ to occur. The Hobbesian tradition
    doesn't think anything is fated to occur. We just might end up all in a consensus at the end of
    time, within the liberal, Hobbesian system. But we see no reason to say that it was fate that it
    was so. To want to move to Kant from Hobbes is to desire us agreeing on more than peaceful

    I think that there are more options than Hobbesianism and Kantianism - and that you are shoe-horning
    me into a position (Kantianism) from which I recoil (I really don't think that I'm an essentialist,
    certainly not in a Platonic sense). I emphatically do NOT see Kant as 'where we want to be'.

    Two examples.

    1. The current government in Rwanda is restricting free speech and effectively barring all
    references to 'Hutu' and 'Tutsi'. This is to (try and) cut out at source the tribal identities which
    led to the genocide ten years ago. This is a move antagonistic to the norms of Millsian liberalism,
    but also clearly at ease with the underlying ethos behind it.

    2. The government of Abraham Lincoln moved to emancipate the slaves. This was an innovation in the
    system that he inherited (else there would not have been conflict) but was justified, again, by
    appealing to the underlying ethos behind it.

    As I read it, in historical situations like this, the system is enabled to move forward in a Quality
    direction through appealing to goods that were (by definition) outside the system itself. There is
    recourse to talk about higher values which, whether they are grounded in an essentialist metaphysic
    or not, enabled that wider discussion and therefore allowed DQ to change the system for the better.

    My worry is that your pragmatic 'add-on' would prevent just such developments - it restricts the
    forms of language that can be employed and thereby removes a (if not THE) principal source of DQ. Am
    I misreading you? And if I am - how does your position allow for the development of the system
    itself (as opposed to allowing the system to produce good things, which for the time being I'm happy
    to accept)?


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