Fooloso4 wrote: ↑
November 18th, 2018, 11:58 am
All the rules can do, and all they need to do, is prescribe some constraints on those pursuits when they are undertaken in a social setting, where one agent's actions can effect the welfare of other agents.
As I see it, ethics is about what we ought to do, not simply what we are constrained from doing. What we ought to do is decided in view of what promotes the idea of a good life. Such consideration takes place at three interrelated levels: the personal, the interpersonal, and wholes such as an organization, a profession, a community, a country, the planet. In aiming to live a good life the question of what a good life is is itself an activity that aims at the good life.
In another thread I wrote,
"Perhaps I should re-introduce the distinction (made elsewhere on this forum) between public moralities and private moralities. Historically, moral philosophy has covered a lot of ground, and embraced everything from the foundations of law to cultivation of virtues to one's relationship with God to self-improvement tips. I take a theory of public morality to be concerned with one issue only: rules governing interactions between agents in a moral field. All other questions regarding acceptable or desirable personal behavior --- whether one should eat meat on Fridays, attend church on Sunday, donate to this or that charity, "turn the other cheek" if smote, refrain from sex outside marriage, smoke marijuana, peruse pornography, etc., etc., fall within the purview of private moralities. Government should take no notice, neither promoting or suppressing, any private morality, unless one of them conflicts with a rule of public morality --- a rule generated by a sound, rationally defensible moral theory."
I realize that moral philosophers --- i.e., anyone who claims to be one, or considered by someone else to be one --- historically have taken up all those issues. But the crucial issues, the issues which arouse the deepest passions and the most heated arguments, are those concerned with interactions between moral agents --- questions concerning killing, enslaving, stealing, cheating, lying, cooperating, aiding. Those are the issues which must be resolved, if only provisionally, for a civilized society to cohere and yield the benefits it allows, and not descend into Hobbes' omnium bellum contra omnes
. Those are the issues that compel the adoption and enforcement of laws. Hence it makes sense to split those and similarly critical questions off from the many others which have been claimed to fall within the ambit of "morality," and construct a theory dealing with them only --- a theory of public morality
I noted previously that nothing prevents philosophers, or anyone else, from investigating and arguing for, or anyone from following, a "private morality" that encompasses any of those other issues. The public morality takes no notice of those, as long its rules are not violated.
The only reason I can see why you might not agree to such a restricted focus is that the rules derived from a theory of public morality might preclude pursuit or attainment of "the good life" as you envision it. And there is no doubt that they will conflict with someone's
conception of "the good life." That is, of course, because what counts as "a good life" differs from person to person, and some of those conceptions view the impacts on others as irrelevant.
The quest for an answer to the question of what constitutes a good life is misguided. There is no possible universal answer, because what is deemed "good" is inescapably subjective, and relative to agents. That holds whether the adjective is applied to a painting, a concert, a restaurant, a novel, a movie, a job, a game, an idea, or a life. Aristotle's proposals for what is necessary for a good life would surely not be so counted by a mendicant monk, Evel Knievel, Torquemada, Madonna, or Donald Trump. So we take that diversity of perspectives as a given, a fixed starting point. The question then becomes: What rules, if any there are, will permit all agents thrown together in a modern, civilized society to live "the good life" as they respectively define it?
It is true that many people are uncertain from time to time what will contribute to a good life for them
. Should I marry this guy? Take this job? Pursue this degree? Have a baby? Learn French? Join this organization? Support this charity? Vote for Trump? No philosophical argument will provide answers to such questions for everyone, and probably not for anyone. There is no "good life for humans." There is only a good life for Alfie, another for Bruno, etc. And only they can say what kind of lives those are.
Of course Aristotle’s ethics has something to do with an agent's attainment of his own goals. No one lives my life for me. “Lifestyle” is anachronistic. Aristotle addresses the aspiring philosopher, but the gentleman and statesman as well.
What about the ranch hand, the construction worker, the rock star, the priest, the farmer, the entrepreneur, the midwife, the cop, the soldier, the short order cook?
In an earlier post addressed to Consul on the various senses of the term ‘good’ I said the following:
I would add the metaphysical good - Plato’s generative good:
... not only being known is present in the things known as a consequence of the good, but also existence and being are
in them besides as a result of it, although the good isn't being but is still beyond being, exceeding it in dignity and power. (Republic 509b)
Yes. That is an example of the obscure mysticism ("philobabble") for which Plato is justly derided.
What I am saying is that with any set of rules you devise it must be a two-way street. The rules are not self-justifying.
I agree. They must be justified by being shown consistent with a sound moral theory.
Any rules that violate an individual's beliefs and values must be justified, and, on the other hand, any action based on an individual's beliefs and values must be justified if they are harmful to others. This is not the same as your claim that an individual's beliefs and values never justify a violation of the rules.
Yes, it is the same, provided those rules are justified.
You are justifying your rules based on your own belief that one should not cause harm. The violation of someone’s beliefs and values is a harm to them.
Really? You are counting a prohibition against say, pedophilia as a "harm" to the pedophile, because it affronts and frustrates his values and beliefs?
The greater or lesser harm must be decided on a case by case basis.
Yes. A "harm," however, is conventionally understood to mean a reduction in welfare. But an agent may not count ill-gotten gains in tallying his level of welfare, and so no harm is done him by preventing or forcing him to forfeit those gains.
In addition, your moral theory and your political theory are based on common beliefs about the individual and how this relates to values.
Of course, as are all moral and political theories. Those various assumptions are set forth explicitly in my theory as postulates. Any of those may be challenged --- but not successfully, I'm quite confident.
Once again, you are ignoring the second formulation of the categorical imperative:
Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.
But so formulated it begs the question (the question of whether one must treat oneself and others the same way). Which is why I separated it into two propositions in my deconstruction. That we must treat them the same must be argued for; it cannot be summarily assumed.
We are in agreement as to the answer to topic question. Our disagreement, however, runs deep and informs our differences on both ethics and politics. It is based on a difference in what it means to be human. Your's is Libertarian, mine takes seriously 'arete' (virtue, excellence), 'eudaimonia' (happiness, flourishing, well-being), and the common good of the whole.
The major disagreement is with that last clause ---- there is no "common good of the whole." There is only good for Alfie, good for Bruno, etc., and what counts as "good" is for each of them to define. The rest of us must take their pronouncements as conclusive.