Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Two Announcements And Some Short(ish) Thoughts

First things first. The vanishingly small number of readers who are not already aware of this, be made aware.

Next, some more stuff about terrorism. Phil of Actually Existing writes an excellent piece on the ethics of responses - in the sense I meant on Monday - to terrorism, emphasising the way in which the proper response to terrorism is ethical, and not political, a distinction which nails what I was groping around for when criticising Galloway on Monday.

Easily Distracted puts a careful, considered and very strong case for the importance of agency, and hence full-blown moral critique, in acts of terrorism, on the simple basis that it would be the worst kind of ethnocentrism to assume we have the agency to alleviate the social-scientific causes of terrorism, yet the terrorists do not have the agency to stop committing acts of terror. I think there is a way of making something like the view being criticised make sense, by trying to come up with a set of moral injunctions governing, in Jerry Cohen's words, who can and who can't criticise the terrorists. Depending on how I feel, I may blog about this later.

Lenin does a fairly good job of debunking the whole Islamo-fascist thing. Fascists are blood and soil nationalists, interested in gaining control of states, in the post-French Revolution sense; the Islamists usually picked out by the Islamo-fascist label want everyone to be a Muslim, and all Muslims to live under the same ruler, but not in an entity recognisably a post-French Revolution state. The first believes in a particularist kind of modernism, and the second a universalist medievalism: they are not really alike. Also, just because I think he's quite interesting, Alistair Macintyre went in the opposite direction to Eagleton: Marxist critic to leftist Catholic (although some of Eagleton's recent stuff shows clearMacIntryian influence, interestingly).

On a totally different note, the US left blogosphere has been discussing why nice guys come last, and whether that's fair. Matt Yglesias talks about the presumption implicit in the discussion, that people deserve something for being nice, and brings up Kant's 'you've got to do something because it's your duty, not because you want to or in anticipation of the rewards', saying - oddly for a utilitarian - that it shows that the presumption must be false. Not so. Even if Kant were right about this, which I don't think he is - think of the person who is your friend because, and solely because, they have a duty to be your friend, and compare their ethical status with the person who enjoys their friendship with you - it is a separate issue whether it is legitimate to expect rewards for the fulfillment of a duty. The soldier who saves a comrade's life because they should save their comrade's life can still reasonably expect a commendation of some sort for doing so, and justly feel aggrieved at not getting one. The issues of moral motivation and the costs of behaving morally are not one and the same.

Finally, another note for a vanishingly small constituency of readers. I passed my MPhil, missing out on a distinction by a couple of marks. The gory details: Core Political Theory paper, 69; Political Theories from Machiavelli to Burke, 67; Contemporary European Political and Social Thought, 69; Contemporary Political Philosophy, aka, Jerry Cohen and his disagreements with Rawls, 77; Thesis, on State Neutrality, 72.


Tom said...

Woo! Congratulations Rob. Hope you're coming on Saturday, we can raise a glass.

Pearsall Helms said...

Go on my son!