Harris undertakes "to bring thinking about tragedy and the tragic aspects of life to the center of our ethical thought" 2. Already one can hear the second stance in the phrase "ethical thought" as against, say, "moral theory. Homer saw all this. Aristotle challenged him in supposing that good luck, clear understanding, and cooperative phronesis can lead normally to a good life Moral philosophy has mostly followed Aristotle rather than Homer, but with less and less confidence as images of the good develop from Leibniz and Locke on happiness, to Kant on autonomy, to Hegel on reconciliation, to Schopenhauer on resignation, to Nietzsche on ecstatic-voluntarist affirmation.
Now, according to Harris, it is time to pull the plug on this tradition and to recognize that nothing unambiguously good is achievable. Without such fairy tales, we must face the fact that values -- constituted by human caring and by nothing else -- are inherently plural, incommensurable, incomparable, and non-absolute In Chapter 8, "Best Life Pluralism and Reason's Regret," the strongest and most interesting chapter of the book, Harris develops this view by arguing against Martha Nussbaum's best life pluralism.
Following Aristotle, Nussbaum holds that the best life is the one that involves the best "integrated whole of a plurality of goods" , where this whole is inclusive it lacks nothing that could coherently be added to it , transparent undistortive of any object or character of care , and final valued for its own sake Nussbaum departs from Aristotle, however, in weakening the inclusiveness condition, thus arriving at what Harris calls "best life pluralism". It is, for her, not true that there is only one way of life that is most integrated, and so best, for the entire human species.
There are more goods to be more integrated in more ways within more multiple patterns than those of civic friendship and intellectual contemplation. Hence Nussbaum is open to the thought that taking up one integrated way of life may involve regret for genuine goods foregone.
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Nor, for her, is it true that happiness will necessarily result from pursuing some integrated whole of a plurality of goods. Yet she retains some optimism that reflective reasoning can guide us toward choosing better integrated, hence better, lives rather than worse ones.click
Reasons Grief An Essay On Tragedy And Value
Harris is tougher than this. His pluralism is "tragic pluralism," according to which "occasions for sorrow … are pervasive and perpetual" Reason's grief -- stronger and deeper than reason's regret -- is the recognition that this is so. Values are, sometimes, not only incommensurable, but also incomparable.
Incommensurable values can sometimes be compared by setting against one another notable vs. But this procedure of comparing notables vs. So best life pluralism is false" and, hence, "the consolation of reason's regret is inaccessible" Within a zone of uncertainty, we will simply have to make tough choices, without guidance from principle or theory, about which way to go, and no matter how we choose we will have to grieve that some genuine good will be lost.
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- Human Aggression: Theories, Research, and Implications for Social Policy.
We cannot even console ourselves that we have done the best that we could, for in light of incomparability there is no clear best that could be done. Harris's argument that certain basic values are sometimes incomparable is further buttressed by his Darwinism. Anyone's finding anything good must, ultimately, be "the expression of a balance of chemicals" Only this view, or something like it, "satisfies the naturalistic constraint on understanding the human condition" This view is, at best, speculative, and, at worst, groundlessly reductionist, in stipulatively ruling out subtler naturalist positions such as anomalous monism.
One might hope that a "pure equilibrium" of chemicals in balance is possible: But on Darwinian grounds this hope is nonsense.
We are just not built to be maximally coherent in our value commitments, nor is the universe built to support our coherent valuing. Instead, any way of caring is impure, in involving tradeoffs and imperfect balances. With this general theory of valuing in place, Harris makes short work in Chapters 3 to 7 of alternative value stances. Romanticism, which Harris reads somewhat simplistically as involving a "glorification of the will" and a commitment to acting on sentiment 66 , collapses into either fantastic reverie or nihilism if it is at all realistic about the unlovability of the world.
A Kantian kingdom of ends is not a projectible world Epicureanism is "a form of decadence, a flight from the will to live for the things we value most" Benthamite utilitarianism and decision theory both founder on the incomparability of values. Yet we need not, quite, be Schopenhauerian pessimists. It is possible, in a Romantic realist spirit, simultaneously to pursue personal goods and to "live with the awareness of suffering" , possible "not [to] allow the suffering of others to eclipse [one's] view of what makes life worth living" You can leave our Community millions in solid basically.
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Reasons Grief An Essay On Tragedy And Value
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