Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Appearance Is Entirely Misleading

Just to demonstrate that this blog is not moribund, the Philosopher's Magazine has an interview with T. M. Scanlon. Unsurprisingly, in it, he says two things I very much agree with: first, that the traditional Humean division between reason and the emotions is much over-stated and distorts our understanding of ourselves and our moral lives; second, that if you're going to do moral philosophy, you need to do a kind of psychology, to be able to tease out the motivations which underlie our everyday living out of a moral existence. I'd add to the second that you need to be able to do a kind of anthropology, to understand not just individual psychologies, but the social practices in which they are embedded and which partially constitute them. But those two thoughts, which together bring moral philosophy back to the problems it is supposed to deal with, how to make sense of and so regulate the interactions of reflective animals, rather than the disembedded, disembodied problems which can seem to characterize far too much of the discipline, are ones I like. I don't think he's that difficult to read either.


Peter said...

Heh, assuming that article is a new one it must've took Baggini a long time to write it - the lecture he refers to was back in January!

Anyway, Baggini writes that -
"His peers regard him [Scanlon] as one of the most important moral and political philosophers working today, and he is virtually unknown outside academe."

I thik that all contemporary moral and political philosophers are probably virtually unknown outside academia (there's maybe a few exceptions like Peter Singer). I mean ... Bernard Williams did work for Parliament, but nevertheless I reckon 99 out of 100 non-philosophers couldn't tell you who he is (maybe more would just know him as Shirley Williams' husband?).

Rob Jubb said...

Just off the top of my head, Dworkin and Sen? Martin O'Neill, given that he has a column in the new Statesman? Nagel, because he writes for things like the LRB and NYRB? Scanlon could be more visible than he is (and that's ignoring moral philosophers, whom I know nothing about really any more). The amicus brief he cites as an example of the difficulties philosophers get in to when they intervene in public debate I remember as being really really unsympathetic, although I may have just totally misremembered it; failures of public reason (he smiles).