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« How do you tackle knee-jerk relativism? | Main | Attrition and ensuring better exit-options »

05/23/2015

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Marcus Arvan

Hi Elisa: I think this is a very important issue. Moral philosophers have a habit of focusing on hypothetical thought-experiments that they *think* isolate 'morally relevant features' of a situation, but which in fact abstract away from emotional and narrative facts that are morally relevant. The result, all too often, is moral philosophy that is emotionally and interpersonally--and yes, morally--stunted (look no further than the Stoics, Plato's Socrates, etc.).

Moral philosophy should be engaged with real life, not abstract away from it--and stories can help us do it. I long for a return to the kind of philosophy I associate with people like Stanley Cavell--philosophy that works with art, poetry, and literature in examining how we should live rather than ignoring them.

Elisa Freschi

Thank you, Marcus. I am a strong believer in the epistemological value of stories as instances of linguistic communication as an instrument of knowledge and I cannot but encourage the philosophical investigation of literature and poetry. However, and just because of my absurd tendency to always take the role of the advocatus diaboli, I wonder whether we should not be proud of the openness of philosophy and of its ability to ask all questions and not just the ones which are "appropriate". In other words, I am very much in favour of the pars construens of the argument, but sligtly less convinced by its pars destruens.

Sean Whitton

Could you point me at Rorty's discussion of the value of literature, please? Thanks in advance.

Elisa Freschi

Sean: It is in the last chapter of Contingency, Irony and Solidarity.

Sean Whitton

Thanks for that :)

Expat Grad

This is an interesting post, and realize that I'm picking nits, but I don't think you're right about the Liar.

If the narrative is that Epimenides the Cretan has reformed from his Cretonism (pathological lying), and says "All Cretans are liars", presumably, because he is reformed, he is telling the truth. However, he hasn't ceased to be a Cretan, thus he is lying. To be sure, this doesn't have the same force as the original paradox, but Epimendides is still lying and telling the truth, which, outside of Australasia at least, is paradoxical.

Elisa Freschi

Expat Grad, I see your point and I also see that I have been too terse. What I meant was an example I am drawing from Emilio Garroni (http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emilio_Garroni) who once explained that any paradox comparable to the Liar's one is never really found in an epistemological vacuum. What would rather happen is that someone will dramatize the sentence and put it in an appropriate context, e.g. "As a Cretan, I cannot stop lying, but I regret it, I hate myself for it…". The explicitation of the possible implicatures seems to change the paradoxical-ness of the paradox, whereas its pure logical form is just not solvable.

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