Sunday, September 21, 2003

I think this is a very important paper:
from Aletheia Forum: "Going Beyond Good and Evil"
My basic premise, in sync with "discourse ethics", is that there are two basic modes of being with others: in one, the aim is to project and solidify one's conceptualization, with others' collaboration or without (collaboration indicates something like joint interest and gives rise to "in-group / out-group" dynamics) while, in the other, the ongoing project of reality testing and inquisitiveness gives rise to an authentic interest in and appreciation of the other's sense of reality. This essay puts the emphasis somewhat differently, but I've found no substantial contradiction.
"... Hannah Arendt once described totalitarianism as an "experiment against reality" that grew out of a society in which people thought "that everything was possible and nothing was true." In this, Arendt described more than just totalitarianism, accurately portraying a wide array of 19th and 20th Century movements loosely held together with the term postmodern. In fact, others have pointed out that it is in the undercutting of reality that "the deep affinity, the holding hands under the table," between postmodern intellectuals and totalitarian regimes becomes apparent. But, experimenting against reality, replacing "Life" with an illusion, is a dangerous thing to do. G.K. Chesterton said that men "who cannot believe their senses . . . are . . . insane, but their insanity is proved not by any error in their argument, but by the manifest mistake of their whole lives." As was his style, Chesterton put his finger on the essence of the thing -- men ignore reality at their own peril.
Citing the German scholar Ernst Robert Curtius in his introductory essay, Kimball notes that the basic tenet of Western tradition is that "know[ing] owes a perpetual debt to reality." Or, as Kimball puts it: "It is reality that speaks to us, not we who lecture it." It is this premise-that the pursuit of knowledge has an Object-upon which "the preservation of Western culture" rests. Western thought has, for centuries, striven to the standard of "judging 'according to right reason,' in Aristotle's famous formula." Moreover, it has traditionally been understood that the habit of judging according to right reason is a matter of both character and intelligence. It exists within the balance between an understanding of man as noble, yet fallen; capable, yet finite. While "[s]aying yes to the truth involve[s] ascent as much as assent"; saying no involves both the refusal of assent that comes with hubris and the refusal of ascent that comes with cowardice. True knowing, right reason, requires both a certain kind of thought and a certain kind of life. Therefore, "culture is in some deep sense inseparable from conduct." To follow Aristotle into the real world has always been both humbling and strenuous."
[emphasis added; see my "CityZen.]

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