Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Left: Secular, Spiritual, Utopian and … Pragmatic

I was quite moved upon reading the following passage yesterday from Vincent Geoghegan’s persuasive and profound book, Utopianism and Marxism (Methuen, 1987): 

“In moments of despair [Rosa] Luxemburg was driven to conceive of happiness in terms of a rejection of politics: 

‘I cursed the damn “politics” that stopped me from answering father’s and mother’s letters for weeks on end. I never had time for them because of those world-shaking problems…. And my hate turned against you because you chained me to the accursed politics…. Yesterday I was almost ready to give up, once and for all, the goddamn politics (or rather the bloody parody of our ‘political’ life) and let the whole world go to hell. Politics is inane Baal worship, driving people—victims of their obsession, of mental rabies—to sacrifice their entire existence.’ 

Part of this is clearly the inevitable degree of hardship and sweat associated with any conceivable form of political activity—but it is also testimony to the deep psychic wounds inflicted on many militants by the constrained, positivist politics of the Second International.” 

Luxemburg’s agonizing thoughts on her political experience will resonate with many activists on the Left whose personal lives have often experienced considerable turmoil or neglect as a result of their devotion, as we say, to the cause. Indeed, it is such “accursed politics” or politics as “inane Baal worship” that Gandhi hoped to transform with his creative and arduous attempt to introduce the “āśrama” ideal into political life, in his case, as a form of karma yoga, of a piece with the larger endeavor to “spiritualize politics.” Identical or analogous attempts to overcome the tensions, contradictions, and divides between the values and identities cherished in everyday life and political work are found, for example, among “engaged” Buddhists, Deep Ecology Greens, the praxis of Liberation Theology, as well as the prefigurative politics and integrative education found in the history of anarchism. It also a “central theme” animating a book by one of the founders of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), the sociologist Richard (‘Dick’) Flacks, who today remains active in local politics. Flacks devotes a considerable portion of Making History: The Radical Tradition in American Life (1988) to exploring the “disjunction experienced between making history and making one’s own life.” 

Over at the U.S. Intellectual History Blog* there is a Roundtable on Leilah Danielson’s American Gandhi: A.J. Muste and the History of American Radicalism in the Twentieth Century (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014) that provides us with a peak into the life of an activist who seems to have more or less finessed and perhaps transcended the aforementioned “disjunction” in an exemplary manner, with provocative implications for activists on the Left. I’ll be writing more on this in the near future, inspired in part by a recent issue of the journal Rethinking Marxism. I hope to explain why and how the contemporary Left in this country should and can be a social movement at once secular, spiritual, (non-pejoratively speaking) utopian, and pragmatic as part of the global struggle for liberté, égalité, fraternité and our national variation on this struggle in the fight for racial justice, socialism, and a non-violent (anti-militarist) society.   

* The latest post in the seven-part series, part 5, is here.            

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Right to Resist (especially violent) Oppression & Just Revolutionary War

To date, and rather surprisingly given the violent (and non-violent) struggles of oppressed peoples around our planet in the twentieth century, those who specialize in normative political theory and the ethics of war (or just war theory) have had precious little to say, at least in any systematic or theoretical sense, about what constitutes a “legitimate, armed, non-terrorist resistance to oppression” (in particular, when such oppression takes the form of violence by the state), in other words, “what are the moral rules or constraints and parameters of justifiable armed resistance and revolution?” Christopher J. Finlay’s book, Terrorism and the Right to Resist: A Theory of Just Revolutionary War (Cambridge University Press, 2015), addresses these questions by providing us, in the words of one reviewer, with “a lucid, persuasive and comprehensive extension of revisionary just war theory to cases of resistant violence.” The morality of revolutionary war is given a fair hearing and just defense. With regard to a possible warrant for terrorism, Finlay argues that “some such justification is conceivable.”

“But at the same time, the conditions that would need to be present to warrant such a justification are such that it is very seldom likely to occur in reality. It is necessary to specify what those are, not only—or indeed, not primarily—in order to recognize justified terrorism if it should ever arise, but also to reinforce the assurance with which we may condemn its use in the vastly greater number of case where it is not justified.”

I have only skimmed through the book for now, and it appears to be first-rate. The fact that it references some of my favorite political philosophers (as well as others whose work I’m not nearly as familiar): Allen Buchanan, C.A. J. Coady, and Robert E. Goodin, for example, also inclines me to view it with favor.

Finally, I found the title—while provocative and thus market-savvy—misleading. It should rather be A Theory of Just Revolutionary War: The Right to Resist and Terrorism. The change would better reflect the extent and significance of the respective arguments, as the treatment of terrorism does not have pride of place in the book.

I have two bibliographies at my Academia and ResearchGate pages directly relevant to Finlay’s argument: “Violent Conflict & the Laws of War,” and “Terrorism.”

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Wen and the Odes in Confucianism: possible lessons for a democratic polity?

 In the political domainacts of knowing and persuading rested upon wise use of the Odes.
… [I]n any social gathering, true virtuosi of the Odes, whether male or female, could safely express their innermost feelings without fear of offending others. (Early traditions attributed a number of odes to women.) [….] Regarded as the product of suitable emotions aroused in the singer, the odes served as a versatile rhetorical tool by which to arouse sympathetic emotions in audiences public or privileged, lettered or unlettered.
Just as the odes taught that skillful and rewarding relations depend on a proper appreciation of the objects deserving admiration, so the deeper pleasures available to humans—self-knowledge, friendship, sexual pleasure, and connoisseurship—relied on an extraordinary capacity to cultivate in oneself and others the desire for more refined social interplay. In the end, the ethical followers of Confucius claimed this province of ordinary human interaction, with its marvelous potential for imbuing men with greater vision, as their own special area of expertise, in contrast to those thinkers now labeled Legalists, Mohists, or Daoists. — Michael Nylan

Apologia—I don’t speak here to the question posed in the title (see the second list of titles below for works that address, in one way or another, this topic), but I was thinking of prominent politicians in existing democratic regimes as well as “leaders” of sundry kinds in contemporary society while reading about the role of the Odes among elites in ancient China. Suffice to say, our standards for knowledge and understanding, etiquette (as inextricably bound up with virtue), and moral charisma are far lower and perhaps ill-understood as well; at the very least, our expectations are rather different than those articulated in and inspired by Confucian models.
*       *       *
I have been reading afresh about the function of the Odes in ancient and early imperial China among the elites (ruling and otherwise). The Odes (poems that were chanted) are one of the so-called Five “Confucian” Classics (the others: Documents, Rites, Changes, and Spring and Autumn Annals), although it so happens that these works pre-date Confucius. The Confucian appellation owes to their significance for Confucian pedagogy, as they were essential to the ruist tradition that is later synonymous with individual and collective Confucian identity. One’s knowledge and facility with the odes in both public and more intimate fora were signs of erudition and suasive power (or charisma), an effective display of social skills and intuitive discernment that, in turn, revealed abilities related to an understanding of moral and psychological character as well as the specific dynamics and exigencies of the situation at hand. The social graces evidenced in one’s mastery of the odes was said to resonate with the “sound of virtue,” thereby “influencing others for the good.” Michael Nylan elaborates:

“… [T]hose who could chant odes and respond appropriately to them were considered ‘qualified to become great officers,’ who would ‘turn their merits to account.’ Conversely the lack of such abilities was deemed sure proof of the person’s loutishness, ignorance, insensitivity and lack of suasive influence, in that ‘words lacking pattern and refinement do not go far [in persuading others].’ Based on his knowledge of odes, one could get a grasp of a man’s training, self-discipline, and resourcefulness. And this ability to know men via their knowledge of the Odes was considered the most valuable type of knowledge available to the ruling elite. To know others and be known favorably by them was the one skill essential to those wishing to acquire or retain high rank. At the same time, those already in power needed to exercise their powers of discernment in knowing others, lest they fail to measure merit accurately, employ it suitably, and reward it proportionately, for only thus can a superior attract good men to his service and secure their loyalty.”

The Odes, and the Five Classics in general were part of wen: originally, line or pattern; to inscribe, to embellish; the arts or culture; generally speaking, wen makes reference to the patterned regularity or symmetry, harmony and beauty found in 1. (the dao of) tian (‘Heaven’), 2. (the dao of) the natural world, and 3. (the dao of) a properly humane culture (i.e., one suffused with ren). With regard to tian and the natural world one might say that, in the scientific language of today, wen is evidenced in the physical laws (or normative regularities) of nature (cf. Anthony Zee’s Fearful Symmetry: The Search for Beauty in Modern Physics, 1999), or the mathematical and aesthetic elegance of the Golden Ratio—Phi—throughout human history (see Mario Livio’s The Golden Ratio, 2002). For Confucius, wen entailed the six arts,” namely, rites (li), music, archery, charioteering (the previous two being martial arts), mathematics and calligraphy. Of course given Confucius’ commitment to the Five Classics, we can assume poetry and dance were likewise essential. In Analects: 7.6, Confucius says, “Set your sights on the way (dao), sustain yourself with virtue (de), lean upon benevolence (ren), and sojourn in the arts (wen).”

Confucius’ position on the role of tradition in an appreciation of the arts is gleaned from 3.14, wherein he normatively discriminates between the respective dynasties: “The Chou [Zhou] dynasty looked back to the Hsia [Xia] and the Shang dynasties. Such a wealth of culture! I follow the Chou [Zhou],” In the Book of Rites (one of the Five Classics) we are reminded that “the perfection of virtue is primary, and the perfection of art follows afterward.” Put differently, the arts are enlisted in the Confucian perfectibilist or open-ended, hence lifelong project of moral and spiritual self-cultivation. They serve to integrally and holistically discipline or train the body and heart-mind (xin) of the would-be junzi (Confucian ‘gentleman,’ a meritocratic designation no longer tied to ‘nobility of blood’).

In thinking of the role of the Odes, we should keep in mind with Edward Slingerland the fact that “music was considered by the early Confucians to be one of the most powerful tools for shaping the emotions, and the metaphor of musical perfection also served for Confucius as a metaphor for the perfected state.” Xunzi understood wen as essential to harnessing or disciplining the “natural and irrepressible” emotions that “burst forth in words, poems, songs, and dances:”

“There is a danger, however, that this effusion of passion may overstep its proper bounds by violating the principles of the Way, and what began as a natural human tendency may metamorphose into a source of chaos. But the Sage Kings took steps to address just that problem: they established rituals of artistic expression, ensuring that poems and song conform to the Way. For when the people of a state sing and hear proper music, they are influenced by its power to bring themselves in line with the Way as well.”(Paul R. Goldin)

Confucius and his followers were well-known for reciting the three hundred odes, playing them on strings while singing and dancing. His devotion to the Odes exemplifies his understanding of wen. The Odes had variegated epistemic, political, ethical, aesthetic, psychological, and cultural functions in ancient China, only some of which we’ll mention here (see the excellent if not unsurpassed treatment provided by Michael Nylan in her 2001 study, The Five “Confucian” Classics). Not surprisingly, “all traditions portray the Odes’ vital importance as a cultural repository of eminent utility and as a teaching tool for the social graces” (Nylan). The Odes could arouse the emotions of others, allow for the acute perception of others’ feelings, enhance a fraternal sense of community, “diplomatically” express grievances or critiques so as not to offend or humiliate their targets, serve as a display of character and erudition. Formally or stylistically speaking,

“the inherent ambiguity and the multivalence of the odes allowed song-makers and audience alike to thrill to witty displays of learning, imparting a single meaning to lines quoted with a specific context. In effect, then, an ingenious, flexible, yet guided response, reaching ever higher levels of insight, became both the prerequisite for and the end product of Odes’ learning. (Nylan)

We might choose to characterize the Confucian project of self-cultivation itself in aesthetic, or more broadly, artistic terms, as Hall and Ames do in Thinking Through Confucius (1987) and Nylan does here:

“Moral self-cultivation is itself a kind of exquisite taste: the truly cultivated have learned to delight in the moral Way [Dao] and to appreciate the beauty and utility of ritual [li]. Such sophisticated powers of discrimination keep them on the path of full humanity (jen), painstakingly refining their initial impulses toward sympathetic understanding, like the jade cutter who cuts and files, chisels and polishes the precious material. People who know enough to take pleasure in the Way find that the end products of their efforts, their lives or their jades, have become exquisite works of art.” (Nylan)

Little noticed, at least from my vantage point, the Confucian conception of wen has much in common with the Platonic if not classical Greek understanding of the role of music and dance in paideia (moral education; aretē, or the moral habituation to virtue; education directed toward ‘the Beauty and the Good’): “As an instrument of paideia, ritual dancing, in which the customs of the group are encoded, implied the acquisition of moral virtues and a sense of civic responsibility, of mature allegiance to the community, an espousal of its traditions and virtues” (see Steven H. Lonsdale’s Dance and Ritual Play in Greek Religion, 1993). For Plato, music and dance were “the first and fundamental steps of education,” constituting a form of “unwritten laws” that complement or sustain the written laws of the polis. These unwritten laws might helpfully be identified as a subset of Confucian wen or simply li. Substitute the Confucian heart-mind (xin) for “soul” in the following and the identification is transparent: Plato believed music and dance contributed to moral education and civic virtue, in other words, to ends motivated by an intimate knowledge of the Good, “because rhythm and harmony penetrate most easily into the soul and influence it most strongly, bringing with it decorum and making those who are correctly trained well-behaved” (Lonsdale). 

Music and dance in ancient Greece, like the composition and performance of the odes in classical China, “made moral learning at once the most natural and so most delightful of all human activities—far more than a polite accomplishment, a significant source of gratification or fulfillment [in Greek terms, eudaimonia].” (Nylan) 

References & Further Reading

  • Ames, Roger T. and Henry Rosemont, Jr., trans. (1998) The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation. New York: Ballantine Books.
  • Confucius (David Hinton, tr.) (1998) The Analects. Washington, DC: Counterpoint.
  • Eno, Robert (1990) The Confucian Creation of Heaven: Philosophy and the Defense of Ritual Mastery. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  • Fingarette, Herbert (1972) Confucius: The Secular as Sacred. New York: Harper Torchbooks.
  • Goldin, Paul Rakita (1999) Rituals of the Way: The Philosophy of Xunzi. Chicago, IL: Open Court.
  • Goldin, Paul Rakita (2011) Confucianism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Hall, David L. and Roger T. Ames (1987) Thinking Through Confucius. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  • Ivanhoe, Philip J. (2nd ed., 2006) Confucian Moral Self-Cultivation. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.
  • Kline, T.C. and Justin Tiwald, eds. (2014) Ritual and Religion in the Xunzi. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  • Nylan, Michael (2001) The Five “Confucian” Classics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Van Norden, Bryan W., ed. (2002) Confucius and the Analects: New Essays. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Xunzi (Eric L. Hutton, tr.) (2014) Xunzi: The Complete Text. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

The following titles speak to the actual and possible relevance of Confucian philosophy to contemporary politics, political philosophy, ethics, and moral psychology:

  • Angle, Stephen C. Sagehood: The Contemporary Significance of Neo-Confucian Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 
  • Angle, Stephen C. Contemporary Confucian Political Philosophy. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2012.
  • Bell, Daniel A. and Hahm Chaibong, eds. Confucianism for the Modern World. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • Chan, Joseph. Confucian Perfectionism: A Political Philosophy for Modern Times. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014.
  • Chong, Kim-chong, Sor-hoon Tan, and C.L. Ten, eds. The Moral Circle and the Self:
  • Chinese and Western Approaches. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 2003.
  • de Bary, Wm. Theodore and Tu Wei-ming, eds. Confucianism and Human Rights. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
  • Ivanhoe, Philip J. Confucian Reflections: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times. New York: Routledge, 2013.
  • Kim, Sungmoon. Confucian Democracy in East Asia: Theory and Practice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
  • Kim, Sungmoon. Public Reason Confucianism: Democratic Perfectionism and Constitutionalism in East Asia. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Neville, Robert Cummings. Boston Confucianism: Portable Tradition in the Late-Modern World. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2000.
  • Rosemont, Henry, Jr. Against Individualism: A Confucian Rethinking of the Foundations of Morality, Politics, Family, and Religion. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015.
  • Shun, Kwong-loi and David B. Wong. Confucian Ethics: A Comparative Study of Self, Autonomy, and Community. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • Tu Wei-ming. Humanity and Self-Cultivation: Essays in Confucian Thought. Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 1979.
  • Tu Wei-ming. Way, Learning, and Politics: Essays on the Confucian Intellectual. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1993.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday Morning Musings: The Unavoidability of Anthropomorphism


All descriptive, explanatory, and normative language is, in one (I hope) nontrivial sense, “anthropocentric.” Indeed, language itself is anthropomorphic by definition, even if it need not be strongly anthropocentric (as in concepts of impartiality, objectivity and truth, for example, or in scientific endeavors to understand the natural world). Poets, philosophers and scientists, as well as the rest of us, depend on human language to communicate, and thus we are necessarily implicated in anthropomorphic and often anthropocentric expressions, conceptualizations, and characterizations or, at the very least, anthropomorphic presuppositions, assumptions and presumptions. Even the “deepest” ecologist and the most devoted Daoist cannot free themselves from, or avoid the constraints of, anthropomorphism. Consider, for instance, the latter: although the Daodejing of the Daoist—one of the most exquisitely profound expressions of classical Chinese philosophy—includes many (evocative) suggestions or “imperatives” to follow (literally and figuratively) the course or order of nature, it too is unavoidably anthropomorphic. In conceding this, we need not deny the text’s desire, wish, or quest to transcend, as it were, an anthropomorphic perspective.1 To keep with our example, the Daoist is insistent that the nature of Dao cannot be put into words, that all “names” are perspectival and limiting … and often misleading. And yet the Daoist is perforce compelled to speak about the Dao, even if enigmatically, aphoristically, and metaphorically, while simultaneously attempting to have us bear in mind the limitations of language and conceptualization, much like, if not identical to, the motivating rationale of poetry, which at once exploits the possibilities and limitations of linguistic expression.
Perhaps the words and formulations of the non-theistic mystic come as close as is humanly possible to avoiding conceptual anthropomorphism when endeavoring to “point to” or characterize as best as possible, the nature of mystical (i.e., the heights of spiritual) experience.2 And one might plausibly argue that “the misanthrope,” insofar as he can be truly systematic or consistent (e.g., avoiding all-too-human behavioral and emotional dispositions or following through on the behavioral consequences or conclusions of such thoughts and sentiment) in his dislike of or contempt for human beings, can more or less steer clear of all species of anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism. Finally, nothing said here denies our ability and frequent need to distinguish crude from sophisticated anthropomorphism or weak from strong anthropocentrism.
The following passage from Hilary Putnam’s chapter, “Values, facts and cognition” in his book Reason, Truth and History (Cambridge University Press, 1981), well illustrates our contention regarding the ubiquity of the anthropomorphic bias if you will, or what I prefer to call the unavoidability of anthropomorphism:
“[F]act, (or truth) and rationality are interdependent notions. A fact is something that it is rational to believe, or, more precisely, the notion of a fact (or a true statement) is an idealization of the notion of a statement that it is rational to believe. [….] [B]eing rational involves having criteria of relevance as well as criteria of rational acceptability, and…all of our values are involved in our criteria of relevance. The decision that a picture of the world is true (or true by our present lights, or “as true as anything is”) and answers the relevant questions (as well as we are able to answer them) rests on and reveals our total system of value commitments. A being with no values would have no facts either. The way in which criteria of relevance involves values, at least indirectly, may be seen by examining the simplest statement. Take the sentence ‘The cat is on the mat.’ If someone actually makes this judgment in a particular context, then he employs conceptual resources—the notions ‘cat,’ ‘on,’ and ‘mat’—which are provided by a particular culture, and whose presence and ubiquity reveal something about the interests and values of that culture, and of almost every culture. We have the category ‘cat’ because we regard the division of the world into animals and non-animals as significant, and we are further interested in what species a given animal belongs to. It is relevant that there is a cat on the mat and not just a thing. We have the category ‘mat’ because we regard the division of inanimate things into artifacts and non-artifacts as significant, and we are further interested in the purpose and nature a particular artifact has. It is relevant that it is a mat that the cat is on and just something. We have the category ‘on’ because we are interested in spatial relations. Notice what we have: we took the most banal statement imaginable, ‘the cat is on the mat,’ and we found that the presuppositions which make this statement a relevant one in certain contexts include the significance of the categories animate/inanimate, purpose, and space. To a mind with no disposition to regard these as relevant categories, ‘the cat is on the mat’ would be as irrational as ‘the number of hexagonal objects in this room is 76’ would be, uttered in the middle of a tête-à-tête between young lovers. Not only do very general facts about our value system show themselves in our categories (artifacts, species name, term for a spatial relation) but, our more specific values (for example, sensitivity and compassion), also show up in the use we make of specific classificatory words (‘considerate,’ ‘selfish’). To repeat, our criteria of relevance rest on and reveal our whole system of values.”—Hilary Putnam
Notes
1. Cf. the well-known passage from chapter 5: “Heaven and earth are not humane, they regard the ten thousand things as straw dogs [As Hans-Georg Moeller explains, ‘straw dogs … were highly revered elements in sacrificial rituals, but after the ritual they lost all their meaning and were simply discarded.’]. The sage is not humane. He regards all the people as straw dogs.”
2. See, for example, the argument(s) on behalf of “pure consciousness events” (PCE) in Robert K.C. Forman, ed., The Problem of Pure Consciousness: Mysticism and Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 1990).

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Radical Catholicism (The Catholic Worker Movement, Liberation Theology…) — A Bibliography

My latest bibliography is on Radical Catholicism (The Catholic Worker Movement, Liberation Theology...). It is available at either Academia.edu or ResearchGate. Here is the introduction:

Some of these titles are outside Catholicism proper although the forms of Protestant Christianity they exemplify have much in common (as recognized by the respective members of the concerned parties) with Catholic radicalism. I included a few of these works if only to avoid the impression that Catholicism has a monopoly on this Christian mode of religious radicalism! Like most of my bibliographies, this one has two principal constraints: books, in English. And it is intended to be representative (thus not exhaustive) of the literature. [And no, I am not a sales representative for Orbis Books.]

You should be able to access all of my bibliographies, listed below, at these two sites.    
  1. Africana & African American Philosophy
  2. After Slavery & Reconstruction: The Black Struggle for Civil Rights, Freedom, and Equality in the U.S.
  3. B.R. Ambedkar
  4. American Indian Law (this list goes considerably beyond ‘law’)
  5. Analogy & Metaphor
  6. Anarchism: Philosophy & Praxis
  7. Animal Ethics, Rights, and Law
  8. The Arab World: Modern & Post-Modern
  9. The Bedouin
  10. Beyond Capitalist Agribusiness: Toward Agroecology & Food Justice
  11. Beyond Capitalist-Attenuated Time: Freedom, Leisure, and Self-Realization
  12. Bioethics
  13. Biological Psychiatry, Sullied Psychology and Pharmaceutical Reason
  14. Blacks and Food Justice: A Guide to Resources
  15. Blacks on the (Radical) Left
  16. The Black Panther Party
  17. On Boxing — Sweet Science & Brutal Agon
  18. Buddhism
  19. Buddhism & Psychoanalysis
  20. Capital Punishment
  21. César Chávez & the United Farm Workers
  22. Christianity
  23. Classical Chinese Worldviews
  24. Comparative Law
  25. Conflict Resolution and Nonviolence
  26. Constitutionalism
  27. The Corporatization of Higher Education
  28. Criminal Law
  29. Death & Dying
  30. Democratic Theory
  31. Detroit: Labor & Industrialization, Race & Politics, Rebellion & Resurgence 
  32. Dreams and Dreaming
  33. Ecological & Environmental Politics, Philosophies, and Worldviews
  34. Emotions
  35. Ethical Perspectives on Science & Technology
  36. Frantz Fanon—A Basic Reading Guide
  37. Freudian Psychology
  38. The Life, Work, & Legacy of Mohandas K. Gandhi
  39. Global Distributive Justice
  40. The Great Depression & The New Deal
  41. Health: Law, Ethics & Social Justice
  42. Hinduism
  43. The History, Theory & Praxis of the Left in the 1960s
  44. Human Rights
  45. Indic (or Indian) Philosophy
  46. International Criminal Law
  47. International Law
  48. Modern Iran
  49. Islam & Muslims in the United States
  50. Islamic Studies
  51. Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
  52. The Jain Tradition
  53. Judaism
  54. Law and Literature
  55. Toward an Understanding of Liberalism
  56. Marxism
  57. Marxism (or ‘the Left’), Art & Aesthetics
  58. Marxism and Freudian Psychology
  59. Mass Media
  60. Nonviolent Resistance in the Middle East (with an emphasis on the Palestinian struggle)
  61. Nuclear Weapons
  62. Pan-Africanism, Black Internationalism, & Black Cosmopolitanism
  63. Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory
  64. Philosophy, Psychology, & Methodology for the Social Sciences
  65. Philosophy & Racism
  66. Punishment and Prison
  67. Radical Catholicism (The Catholic Worker Movement, Liberation Theology…)
  68. Science and Religion
  69. Science and Technology
  70. Slavery
  71. Social Security & the Welfare State
  72. South African Liberation Struggles
  73. Sullied (Natural & Social) Sciences
  74. Terrorism
  75. Torture: moral, legal, and political dimensions
  76. Transitional Justice
  77. Utopian Imagination, Thought & Praxis
  78. The Varna & Caste System in India
  79. Vietnam War
  80. Violent Conflict & the Laws of War
  81. Women as Intellectuals in the European Enlightenment
  82. Workers, the World of Work, and Labor Law
  83. Zionist Ideologies

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ignorance

“We live, we are told, in a ‘knowledge society’ during the ‘Information Age.’ Indeed, we carry small devices that give us access to an enormous portion of human knowledge and allow us to share information, virtually instantaneously, with people around the globe. But our era has also been called the ‘Age of Ignorance.’ Thoughtful observers decry the contemporary ‘culture of ignorance’—especially, but not solely, in the United States. The contradiction is troubling and puzzling. Ignorance, it seems, is trending.
The sort of ignorance sparking concern is what might be termed public ignorance, by which I mean widespread, reprehensible ignorance of matters that are significant for our lives together. Functional illiteracy and innumeracy are examples. Such ignorance might once be explained, if not excused, by lack of educational opportunity; but that seems obtuse when applied to countries with rich educational resources. Besides, the rate of functional illiteracy may be higher in today’s America than it was in colonial New England. Stubbornly high rates of illiteracy and innumeracy are a public shame, no doubt. This is remediable ignorance. The need is for learning—except that many such forms of ignorance thrive despite years of schooling.”— Daniel R. DeNicola, Understanding Ignorance: The Surprising Impact of What We Don’t Know (MIT Press, 2017).

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Palestinian Struggle for Self-Determination & the Right of Resistance to Occupation

There are only two ways. The one currently pursued by the Israeli government, in all its agencies, is the path of violent, stubborn coercion. The extreme nationalists of the Israeli right have a vision that is easy enough to comprehend; it is embodied daily in a thousand acts and signs. They want to crush Palestinian nationalism as a historical force, and the Palestinian people as a collective; to hem the Palestinians within isolated enclaves and to cut off any hope of their sustaining a national existence with a basis on the ground; and, in the course of achieving this, to annex as much land (with as few living Palestinians attached to it) as possible. In short, this is an uncompromising vision of domination and control. The right, clinging to all the violent memories of the past, fears the Palestinians and inhabits a mental universe in which the only safe option is to attack, punish, destroy, incarcerate, and contain. Such people perceive any alternative approach or action, based on compromise and negotiation and on acknowledging one’s own responsibility for what has happened, as an existential threat. Thus they are prepared to live indefinitely with ongoing occupation, in one form or another; they are also willing to make occasional, relatively minor sacrifices, like the withdrawal from Gaza, in order to ensure the continuation of the main colonial enterprise. A regime of total control, constant application of brute force, the rape of the land—all these are acceptable, indeed necessary, if the Jews are to survive.—David Shulman, Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine (University of Chicago Press, 2007)
*           *           *
Perhaps it goes without saying, but I’ll say it: a nation lacks the political, let alone moral, authority to ask or demand (as part of one or more conditions, say, for negotiations or ending its aggression or repressive forms policing or ‘security’) groups or organizations struggling for collective self-determination to renounce all use of violence to achieve their ends—particularly if that denial of self-determination is, as is often the case, part and parcel of outside and more powerful parties systematically failing to recognize their human rights: civil, political, social, cultural, and economic—all the more so if the demanding state itself achieved collective self-determination through violent means (war, rebellion, revolution, terrorism, what have you) or typically resorts to violence when conventional and nonviolent political methods (diplomacy, negotiation, sanctions, etc.) fail or, and often relatedly, employs state violence to assert its political will on other nations (for whatever reason: ideological domination, regime change, resource exploitation, a more congenial economic environment …). Conceding this does not amount to an implicit or roundabout justification or warrant for the particular means of violence such groups or organizations may choose in their struggle (although it’s not difficult to understand why those who are frequently subject to state terror often defend themselves with terrorist means readily available to them) for which they are morally responsible, hence accountable (consider the Sorelian-like celebration of violence or the romantic militarism that finds easy justification for acts of terrorism).1 Indeed, it may be the case that the humanitarian-inspired constraints of just war theory (especially jus in bello) should, more or less, be applied to groups like the Palestinians in their struggle for collective self-determination (this applies as well to those seeking to secede from existing states, which I believe, with Allen Buchanan, should be understood only as a remedial right, a ‘last resort response to serious injustices’2).
Speaking of the Palestinians, it’s useful to remind ourselves that, under international law, in the words of Richard Falk, “Palestinian resistance to occupation is a legally protected right,” one that arises in the first instance from two documents: the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and the Fourth Geneva Convention and its subsequent protocols. As argued in a couple of articles Falk co-authored with Burns Weston,
“Israel’s failures as a belligerent occupant to abide by international law amount[s] to a fundamental denial of the Palestinian right of self-determination, and more generally of respect for the framework of belligerent occupation—therefore giving rise to a Palestinian right of resistance.”
In short, Palestinians have an inalienable moral and legal right to resist an illegal and violent military occupation.
For its part, Israel has reacted to all manner of Palestinian resistance, be it violent or non-violent, with routine reliance on “excessive and disproportionate use of lethal force, including the apparent targeting of civilians and children [as well as torture and various forms of “collective punishment].” Both the creation of “facts on the ground” (e.g., ever-expanding settlements) “and the use of such force … constitute repeated and fundamental violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, violations that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Notes
1. This called to mind the following from C.A.J. Coady: “Those who enthuse about violence and war with a focus only on the virtues it may promote are like people who recognise the bonds of loyalty and honour amongst certain sorts of thieves and take this as a ground for advocating theft.” After William James, Coady reminds us, the “activities and contexts in which the virtues and values [e.g. the fight for justice, enthusiasm for action, striving and struggle, courage, perseverance against adversity, comradeship, overcoming of obstacles, solidarity, and self-sacrifice] that can be exhibited in war have a chance to be less damagingly embodied [indeed, Gandhi’s theory and praxis of nonviolence provides a compelling exemplification of this possibility].” Lest the wrong inference be made, I’m well aware that governments or government agencies often resort to terrorist methods for political purposes and, given the State’s monopoly (de jure or de facto) on the means of violence, among other reasons, the horrific consequences of its terrorist acts are far exceed (to date at least) those used by non-state political actors: guerrilla groups, rebels, revolutionaries, nationalists, etc., as any student of the indiscriminate bombing of civilians during the twentieth-century can attest.
2. Please see ch. 8, “Self-Determination and Secession,” in his book, Justice, Legitimacy, and Self-Determination: Moral Foundations for International Law (Oxford University Press, 2004): 331-400.  Buchanan combines his Remedial Right Only Theory with a “supportive stance toward forms of self-determination within the state,” in other words, various forms of intrastate autonomy. On this, see ch. 9, “Intrastate Autonomy:” 401-424.
References and Further Reading:
  • Barghouti, Omar. BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions—The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2011. 
  • Bröning, Michael. The Politics of Change in Palestine: State-Building and Non-Violent Resistance. London: Pluto Press, 2011.  
  • Buchanan Allen. Justice, Legitimacy, and Self-Determination: Moral Foundations for International Law. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. 
  • Coady, C.A.J. Morality and Political Violence. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.  
  • Cypel, Sylvain. Walled: Israeli Society at an Impasse. New York: Other Press, 20016. 
  • Falk, Richard. “International Law and Palestinian Resistance,” in Joel Beinin and Rebecca L. Stein, eds. The Struggle for Sovereignty: Palestine and Israel, 1993-2005. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006: 315-323.  
  • Falk, Richard and Burns H. Weston, “The Relevance of International Law to Palestinian Rights in the West Bank and Gaza: In Legal Defense of the Intifada,” Harvard International Law Journal 32, no. 1 (1991): 129-150. See also Falk and Weston, “The Israeli-Occupied Territories, International Law and the Boundaries of Scholarly Discourse: A Reply to Michael Curtis," Harvard International Law Journal 33, no.1 (1992): 191-204. 
  • Lim, Audrea, ed. The Case for Sanctions Against Israel. London: Verso, 2012.  
  • Makdisi, Saree. Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2008. 
  • Pappe, Ilan. The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge. London: Verso, 2014.   
  • Shenhav, Yehouda. Beyond the Two State Solution: A Jewish Political Essay. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2012. 
  • Tilley, Virginia. Beyond Occupation: Apartheid, Colonialism and International Law in the Occupied Territories. London: Pluto Press, 2012.
Further Research:
  • My bibliography for the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is here.
  • A compilation on for “Nonviolent Resistance in the Middle East (with an emphasis on the Palestinian struggle),” is here.
  • A transdisciplinary bibliography on the “Moral, Legal, and Political Dimensions of Violent Conflict & the Laws of War,” is here.
  • A bibliography for “Zionist ideologies” is here.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Anarchism: Philosophy & Praxis — a bibliography

The first draft of my latest—82nd—bibliography, “Anarchism: Philosophy & Praxis,” is now available. The ads can be avoided if you download the pdf version in the upper right hand corner of the page. It is also now posted at ResearchGate, sans (for now at least) the advertising.

Friday, October 06, 2017

A Nobel Peace Prize We Can All Live With

Here’s a Nobel Peace Prize we can all live with:
(Reuters) – “The Norwegian Nobel Committee, warning of a rising risk of nuclear war, awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday to a little-known [well, that depends upon the circles in which one circulates] international campaign group advocating for a ban on nuclear weapons. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) describes itself as a coalition of grassroots non-government groups in more than 100 nations. It began in Australia and was officially launched in Vienna in 2007.”
  • ICAN’s website is here (and be sure to ‘like’ their FB page).
  • For readers who may not know of this, my bibliography for nuclear weapons is here.
  • The important Arms Control Law blog is here.
  • And Atomic Reporters is an independent, non-profit, incorporated in Canada at the end of 2012, operating as an officially recognised international NGO from Austria, providing substantive and non-partisan information to journalists about nuclear science and technology.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Toward a Secular Spiritual Ethics for All of Us

The section that immediately follows is excerpted from Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso [Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso] born Lhamo Thondup).
What we need today is an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without: a secular ethics. [….]
I am confident that it is both possible and worthwhile to attempt a new secular approach to universal ethics. My confidence comes from my conviction that all of us, all human beings, are basically inclined or disposed toward what we perceive to be good. Whatever we do, we do because we think it will be of some benefit. At the same time, we all appreciate the kindness of others. We are all, by nature, oriented toward the basic human values of love and compassion. We all prefer the love of others to their hatred. We all prefer others’ generosity to their meanness. And who among us does not prefer tolerance, respect and forgiveness of our failings to bigotry, disrespect and resentment?
In view of this, I am of the firm opinion that we have within our grasp a way, and a means, to ground inner values without contradicting any religion and yet, crucially, without depending on religion. [….] It is my hope that doing so will help to promote understanding of the need for ethical awareness and inner values in this age of excessive materialism.
At the outset I should make it clear that my intention is not to dictate moral values. Doing that would be of no benefit. To try to impose moral principles from outside, to impose them, as it were, by command, can never be effective. Instead, I call for each of us to come to our own understanding of the importance of inner values. For it is these inner values which are the source of both an ethically harmonious world and the individual peace of mind, confidence and happiness we all seek. Of course, all the world’s major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance and forgiveness, can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I believe the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics that is beyond religion. [emphasis added]
*           *           *
In the book from which this was taken, the Dalai Lama proceeds to outline a model containing what he terms “key elements” of such a secular ethics, one that involves, among other things, the promotion of “basic human values.” This project for a (‘spiritual’) secular ethics began with an earlier work, Ethics for the New Millennium (Riverhead Books, 1999). In an interview with the editors of the journal, Rethinking Marxism, the Dalai Lama says: “I wish to develop a moral philosophy that appeals to all, even nonbelievers. Secular spirituality could be the ground for that.”* At the end of our post, I proffer some works by philosophers I think are invaluable for the development of a secular and even spiritual ethics, in other words, an ethics or morality for all of us, religious and non-religious alike, an ethics that by definition is not hostile to either religion or spirituality (its inspiration is in part provided by what the Dalai Lama describes as ‘Indian secularism,’ which entails ‘mutual tolerance and respect for all faiths as well as those of no faith’), indeed, such an ethics might even learn from or draw upon techniques and practices for “ethical living” (e.g., a ‘therapy of desire’ and ‘spiritual exercises’ like self-examination, prosoche, and mind-training or meditation) long cultivated in religious traditions.  
Toward a spiritual secular ethics for all of us
The list of titles in contemporary moral philosophy and ethics—generously construed—that I’ve assembled below is no doubt idiosyncratic and partial (I’ve left out some excellent material devoted to particular or more ‘specialized’ moral topics), its generation owing to works that have shaped my views and lifeworld. I’ve not included the many recent books on virtue ethics or “virtue theory” proper (‘currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics’), which may seem odd, given that virtue ethics is quite compatible with our most enduring religious ethical traditions, as well as classical Greek and Chinese philosophies. The reason for this exclusion does not suggest the irrelevance or comparative insignificance of virtue ethics but is owing simply to the fact that I’ve found this body of literature rather predictable and, more importantly, lacking in a robust social or political dimension, which is not to claim these studies necessarily lack implications for same, only that (at least as far as I can ascertain) their focus has not been systematically and dialectically tied to the powers, structures, and processes of the wider world affecting the terms and conditions of daily life in the intimate realm, the realm in which the various virtues of character are first learned, exemplified, and developed.
The fact that this list has, as it were, a philosophical bias, does not rule out the need for works that help translate their insights into a more accessible rhetoric or discourse (including works of fiction) for those not conversant in professional philosophy. Of course professional philosophy, especially its Anglophone variant, has been by either design or default more or less “secular,” although often that secularism has not been respectful or even tolerant of religious worldviews (cf. the ‘New Atheists’), the typical metaphysical presupposition, assumption or presumption being this or that pugnacious variation on the theme of materialism, physicalism, or naturalism, a fact that may account for the failure of moral philosophy and ethics to consider the wider “humanistic” or “spiritual” value of the techniques or practices of ethical living found within religious worldviews as well as the (‘inner’) values the Dalai Lama cites above: love, compassion, and forgiveness, for example, or, say, nonviolence, at least as that has found a prominent place in Indic religio-philosophical traditions like Jainism and Buddhism. Perhaps this is why the Dalai Lama speaks of a “new” secular approach to ethics, of “find[ing] a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics that is beyond religion.” Such an ethics, while broadly and necessarily in the main rational and reasonable, may also evidence an ability to appreciate that which is not, strictly speaking, within the province of Reason, that which is non-rational or somehow para-rational, be it the emotions (which often have a cognitive component) or assiduously acquired non-conceptual mental states (that appear to have significant psychological and physiological benefits) or aesthetic experience, all of which can be compatible with or supportive of the powers and products of reason and rationality. I’ve found three formulations or conceptions of this non-religious spirituality that are secular in the “Indian” intended by the Dalai Lama while not being dependent on any one metaphysical system or picture:
(i) “[A]t the richer end of the spectrum [of spirituality], we find the term used in connection with activities and attitudes which command widespread appeal, irrespective of metaphysical commitment or doctrinal allegiance. Even the most convinced atheist may be prepared to avow an interest in the ‘spiritual’ dimension of human existence, if that dimension is taken to cover forms of life that put a premium on certain kinds of intensely focused moral and aesthetic response, or on the search for deeper reflective awareness of the meaning of our lives and of our relationship to others and to the natural world.”—John Cottingham in The Spiritual Dimension: Religion, Philosophy, and Human Value (2005)
(ii) In Mad and Divine: Spirit and Psyche in the Modern World (2009) the Indian psychoanalyst and writer Sudhir Kakar, reminds us that
“Spirituality, like culture, has many definitions and yet manages to give a sense of familiarity to most of us. For me, the spiritual occupies a continuum from moments of self-transcendence marked by loving connection to an object—nature, art, visions of philosophy or science, the beloved in sexual embrace—to the mystical union of saints where the sense of the self completely disappears. The spiritual, then, incorporates the transformative possibilities of the human psyche: total love without a trace of hate, selflessness carved out of the psyche’s normal self-centeredness, a fearlessness that is not a counter-phobic reaction to the fear that is an innate part of the human psyche.”
Finally, from the neurosurgeon, and philosopher Grant Gillett:
(iii) “Spirituality lifts our eyes from the possibilities defined by the everyday and economic. The divine wind recalls the breath that gives us life and the cleansing water that allows healing and refreshment in the arid wastes of suffering is a figure with meaning that goes beyond the material. In the most unlikely places we find loving and transformative touches, that are the things of the spirit in that they are ways not only of understanding but also beatifying what we do, however bloody, messy and unromantic it is. We are beset by directives and discourses that reduce, demean, and obscure our humanity, that are not noble, uplifting, inspiring, and fulfilling. We can render life in operational (or narrowly functional) terms and make it tolerable through escapism and pleasure but there is another way. We live and love in a world where real tragedies happen, real joy is found, and real connections are forged through time and across barriers of culture and position. In those things we discover the resonance in ourselves of inscriptions, utterances, and works that deepen our understanding.” — Grant Gillett, Subjectivity and Being Somebody: Human Identity and Neuroethics (2008)
Indeed, now we might better understand why the Dalai Lama, whose own worldview is avowedly part Marxist, calls for a non-religious yet “spiritual ethics.” In a discussion of the birth of Marxist ideas, the Dalai Lama highlights “the sensibility and concern for the well-being of the majority, of the needy, of the poor, of the suffering people,” one finds in Marx’s writings and among at least some Marxists, going so far as to state that there is “some kind of spirituality in Marxism.” He proceeds to distinguish two conceptions of spirituality; the first is tied to a conventional portrait of faith and belief as critical to specific religious worldviews and to “certain mysterious things of life,” a picture familiar to both adherents and students of religion. The second sort of spirituality is secular in the “Indian” sense above and is markedly “practical” or, in his words, “spirituality as everyday practice,” expressing a profound sense of “concern over the other’s well-being.”
In brief, our individual and collective quest for a reliable moral compass and ethical ways of living is one that can (and should) be both secular and spiritual in the sense briefly sketched above without making any exclusive commitment to a particular religious worldview or metaphysical picture that claims a monopoly on truth (hence it is metaphysically agnostic or relativist, pluralist, and tolerant in the Jain sense, which remains truth-apt). At the same time, our ethical outlook, while articulated within the framework of reason and rationality and thus beholden to the European Enlightenment, has been sufficiently humbled if not duly chastised following a century of world wars, holocausts, colonialism, genocide, ruthless dictatorships, post-imperialism, indiscriminate and terrorist violence, environmental degradation, conspicuous consumption alongside disadvantage and poverty, and so forth and so on. And yet
“[i]t is … implausible to imagine the ascendancy of Western philosophy as the result of nothing more than naked power. Ideas themselves possess power. Darwin’s theory of evolution, Locke’s concept of liberty, Kant’s categorical imperative, Marx’s critique of capitalism—such ideas caught the global imagination not simply because they could hitch a ride on the back empire but also because they provided a persuasive explanation about how the natural world might work, or because they addressed urgent or political needs. Consider the concept of universalism. This was not the product of Western imperialism [as one might infer from Postcolonial Theory and Subaltern Studies]. Its origins lie in the ancient world, elements to be found in Stoicism, Buddhism, and Mohism. Greek notions of universalism and cosmopolitanism became filtered through Christianity and Islam before becoming secularized in the Enlightenment. What made Enlightenment universalism different was not simply the intellectual content … but also the social context. In the ancient world universalism could be nothing more than a dream or a desire because social constraints precluded the possibility of realizing it. Modernity brought with it the possibility of breaking such constraints.
The intellectual, economic, social and political revolutions that swept through Europe from the seventeenth century onwards laid the foundations for the soaring power of a handful of European nations. They made possible a new kind of empire with unprecedented global reach. They created also the intellectual and social mechanism for challenging that power and that empire, conjuring up new kinds of collectives, new forms of collective action, and new moral and political ideals, such as those of liberty, equality, democracy and rights. Or, to put it another way, what made Enlightenment ideas truly universal was that they became weapons in the hands of those who fought Western imperialism, as Toussaint L’Ouverture and many others recognized. The ideals of liberty, equality, and democracy and rights are not specific to the West. They were applicable to Haitians, to Indians and to South Africans. They are, today, applicable to the Chinese. [….]
[With modernity] … new possibilities of social transformation were opened up, as people rejected the idea of a society as a given, so ought became a political, as much as a moral, demand. People asked themselves not simply ‘What moral claims are rational given the social structure?,’ but also, ‘What social structures are rational?’ What kind of society, what types of social institutions, what forms of social relations, will best allow human beings to flourish?
The capacity to ask and to answer such questions has been nourished by two kinds of development. The first has been the creation of new forms of social conversation [including what Gerald Gaus terms, after Rawls and others, the ‘order of public reason’]. Political and moral debate moved out from the confines of a small elite and became central to the very functioning of societies. From the printing press to the mass media, from political parties to social networking, a range of mechanisms has helped transform the constituency that is able to engage in such debates and the kinds of debate in which it can engage. At the same time, new tools have been fashioned, from the democratic process to revolutionary movements, from labour strikes to national liberation struggles, to enable people to act upon those social conversations to remake social conditions, to try to lever the world from the way it was to the way it should be.
These two developments helped take moral claims beyond the subjective and the relative. The new kinds of social conversations flourished not just within societies but between societies too. They became more universal, detached from specific social structures. At the same time, the mechanisms of social transformation enhanced the universalist possibilities inherent in new social conversations, Social change had meaning beyond the boundaries of a particular community or society. The idea of democracy had universal significance. The reverberations of the French Revolution were felt throughout Europe and, indeed, well beyond Europe. A protest movement in Tunisia helped provoke the ‘Arab Spring’ throughout North Africa and the Middle East.
Questions of morality do not have objective answers in the way that scientific questions do, but neither are they merely expressions of subjective desire or taste. To say that torture is wrong or truthfulness is good is qualitatively different from saying that light travels at 299,792,458 metres per second or that DNA is a double helix. It is also different from saying that ice cream is good or Barry Manilow execrable. [….] Moral questions may not have objective answers but they do have rational ones, answers rooted in a rationality that emerges out of social need. To bring reason to bear upon social relations, to define a rational answer to a moral question, requires social engagement and collective action. It is the breakdown over the past century of such engagement and such action that has proved so devastating for moral thinking.”—Kenan Malik, The Quest for a Moral Compass: A Global History of Ethics (Atlantic Books, 2014).
* Please see Anup Dhar, Anjan Chakrabarti, and Serap Kayatekin, “Crossing Materialism and Religion: An Interview on Marxism and Spiritual with the Fourteenth Dalai Lama,” Rethinking Marxism, Vol. 28, Nos 3-4: 584-598. All further quotations from the Dalai Lama are from this interview.
Recommended Reading:
  • Audi, Robert. The Good in the Right: A Theory of Intuition and Intrinsic Value (Princeton University Press, 2004).
  • Baier, Annette C. Moral Prejudices: Essays on Ethics (Harvard University Press, 1994).
  • Baier, Annette C. Reflections on How We Live (Oxford University Press, 2009)
  • Coady, C.A.J. Messy Morality: The Challenge of Politics (Oxford University Press, 2008).
  • Cooper, John M. Pursuits of Wisdom: Six Ways of Life in Ancient Philosophy from Socrates to Plotinus (Princeton University Press, 2012).
  • Darwall, Stephen L. The Second-Person Standpoint: Morality, Respect and Accountability (Harvard University Press, 2006).
  • Elster, John. Alchemies of the Mind: Rationality and the Emotions (Cambridge University Press, 1999).
  • Ganeri, Jonardon and Clare Carlisle, eds. Philosophy as Therapeia (Royal Institute of Philosophy: 66) (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
  • Gaus, Gerald. The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom and Morality in a Diverse and Bounded World (Cambridge University Press, 2011).
  • Gillett, Grant. Subjectivity and Being Somebody: Human Identity and Neuroethics (Imprint Academic, 2008).
  • Goodin, Robert E. Protecting the Vulnerable: A Reanalysis of Our Social Responsibilities (Chicago University Press, 1985).
  • Goodin, Robert E. Utilitarianism as a Public Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 1995).
  • Haybron, Daniel M. The Pursuit of Unhappiness: The Elusive Psychology of Well-Being (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
  • Heath, Joseph. Following the Rules: Practical Reasoning and Deontic Constraint (Oxford University Press, 2011).
  • Jamieson, Dale. Morality’s Progress: Essays on Humans, Other Animals, and the Rest of Nature (Oxford University Press, 2002).
  • Lloyd, S. A. Morality in the Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes: Cases in the Law of Nature (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
  • Malik, Kenan. The Quest for a Moral Compass: A Global History of Ethics (Atlantic Books, 2014).
  • Murdoch, Iris. Metaphysics as a Guide to Nature (Chatto and Windus, 1992/Penguin Books, 1993).
  • Nussbaum, Martha C. Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions (Cambridge University Press, 2001).
  • Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice (Harvard University Press, 1971; revised ed., 1999)
  • Roberts, Robert C. Emotions: An Essay in Aid of Moral Psychology (Cambridge University Press, 2003).
  • Taylor, Paul W. Ethics Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics (Princeton University Press, 1986).
  • Teichmann, Roger. Nature, Reason, and the Good Life: Ethics for Human Beings (Oxford University Press, 2011).
  • Wiggins, David. Ethics: Twelve Lectures on the Philosophy of Morality (Harvard University Press, 2006).
  • Wong, David B. Natural Moralities: A Defense of Pluralistic Relativism (Oxford University Press, 2006).