Saturday, January 27, 2007
Before MOTD, A Quick Dose, Or, If You Think About It, You Can See I've Been Reading Kant
Via Cirdan, I see this, an argument against inclusion from the value of difference. Since the author is an unashamed Tory, and therefore all in favour of hierarchy and so on, I tend to think something has gone seriously wrong here. Thinking about it briefly, my identification of what has gone wrong - none of which implies either that an argument of this form could not be made, or that Cirdan is incorrect to claim that this particular form of it does not work - is that the author has not thought properly about the conditions under which difference can be sustained. To allow all associations to set whatever criteria for membership they choose is to allow all associations to exclude whomever they want. To allow all associations to exclude whomever they want is to allow associations to make arbitrary choices about who gets to share in the benefits of those associations. The benefits of some associations - where that should be understood as indeterminate over which associations are included in the set of such associations - are important, if not necessary, for a minimally decent life: membership of a state, for example, for the vast majority of people in the world as it is. A minimally decent life is a necessary condition of the exercise of full human agency - understood as distinct from other forms of human agency, necessary for the bare sustenance of life at all, like finding enough to eat. The existence and value of difference is a result of the exercise of full human agency. Ergo, there are some associations which it is important to have access to in order for difference to exist and be valuable. Excluding people from such associations would therefore destroy difference as a valuable category in the world, at least in the lives of those excluded. Allowing the membership of such associations to be decided on arbitrary bases would exclude some people from them. Exactly which associations fall into the category of those whose benefits are important, if not necessary, for a minimally decent life is left indeterminate by this argument: however, it is at least an open question whether in a given context an association might be or not. To make the argument in its Kantian sense, the question is how arbitrary can difference by before it destroys itself? How does the universal solvent avoid dissolving itself? Can reason articulate its own limits?