I’d like to now envision the book I am working on. This post is something like a proposal for the book, both to clarify my thoughts on it and (more importantly) to hear yours. As I write it I keep in mind the wise advice of my dissertation advisor, Parimal Patil, that fundamentally a dissertation proposal is telling a lie. You don’t actually know what the final result is going to be, or you would have already written it; the act of researching it will necessarily make it something different from the proposal. You just don’t know how it will be different. With that in mind, let me attempt to say some more, in a nutshell, about what the book will be.Continue reading
I have repeatedly returned to the categories of ascent and descent, and intimacy and integrity, to classify philosophies; and I have found that the two intersect in important ways. When I discussed that intersection the first time, skholiast asked the important question: “What is the itch in us to make such schematisms?” What is the purpose of trying to classify philosophies in this way?
My first response was that these two are perennial questions, questions that recur throughout the history of philosophy around the world. While I continue to think more or less that that’s the case, I don’t think it did enough to say what’s important about these particular two categories. As I noted later, there are plenty of perennial questions beyond these two. But at the same time, I do see something special about these two classification schemes that merits particular attention to them. Continue reading
One of the biggest problems with analytical ethics, as it’s usually practised, is the reliance on “moral intuitions” as data for ethical judgements. “Intuitions” themselves are not the problem, as long as we think of them as Martha Nussbaum does in The Fragility of Goodness, as “prevalent ordinary beliefs,” the relatively commonsense understandings that make up our starting point, like Gadamer’s Vorurteilen (prejudices). We have to start our enquiry where we are, making sense of the beliefs we already have, rejecting some in the light of others.
But contemporary ethicists often go further than this, giving our unreflective “intuitions” a high status they do not deserve. Continue reading
I’ve found Thomas Kasulis’s distinction between intimacy and integrity to be one of the more helpful ways to think through the significance of culture in philosophy, especially when dealing with East Asia. To help Westerners understand East Asian thought, Kasulis portrays it as having an “intimacy” orientation, as opposed to a more familiar “integrity” orientation.
Now Kasulis is aware enough to realize that there are exceptions to all such generalizations, and some of his examples of “intimacy” come from the West too. The distinction is supposed to function more like one of Max Weber’s ideal types. That is to say: one may never encounter intimacy or integrity orientations in their pure forms; any actual culture or person or book will probably contain some mix. Nevertheless, by thinking of the two as relatively coherent extremes, one is better able to understand what’s going on in the middle.
When applied to ethics and politics alone, the distinction is not particularly original and could even come across as something of a cliché: basically, the modern West is individualistic and oriented toward individual rights and the integrity of the individual, while East Asia focuses on the intimacy community and the ensuing responsibilities of interdependence. Where Kasulis’s work gets interesting is when he applies the distinction to theoretical philosophy. Continue reading