It has taken me far too long to read Martha Nussbaum’s Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice – long enough that, in characteristic Nussbaum fashion, she has already authored or coauthored at least three more books since it came out. I say this is too long because Nussbaum’s views on anger were a topic important to my dissertation, which Nussbaum read and thought highly of while she was at Harvard. (The footnotes of Anger and Forgiveness make a couple offhand references to Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra, and I strongly suspect that it was through my diss that she learned about the text.) And what is most striking to me when I read the book now is that Nussbaum’s views on anger have taken a startling turn in this book – one that brings them much closer to Śāntideva’s. Continue reading
The momentous yet mixed results of this week’s Canadian election were overshadowed on the global scene by the killing of Osama bin Laden. Though the first event riveted me more, the second has more philosophical significance – or rather, not the event itself, but the reaction to it.
Americans have typically greeted bin Laden’s death with jubilation and celebration, often waving American flags and chanting “U.S.A.” But some minority voices, such as Linton Weeks at NPR radio and Pamela Gerloff of the Huffington Post, have raised questions about this celebration. Is it really a good idea to celebrate a human death, even the death of one’s enemy? Continue reading
One of the more potentially pernicious ideas in philosophy is the idea of “common sense,” so often played as a trump card against any idea that departs from the established prejudices of one’s interlocutors. But for the most part, that’s all “common sense” can amount to: prejudice, the pre-judgements shared in common by a given social context. Now this doesn’t necessarily make it bad. Hans-Georg Gadamer tried to “rehabilitate” the concept of prejudice (Vorurteil) on the grounds that even newly acquired knowledge must be measured against knowledge we already have. We must start where we are. As I noted in discussing dialectical and demonstrative argument, this is true even of foundationalist thinkers like Descartes who try to begin everything from first principles – in the chronology of their arguments, they must start with prejudice or “common sense” in order to figure out what the first principles are.
But Gadamerian prejudices can still be prejudices in the pejorative sense as well. Continue reading