View the H-World Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in H-World's February 2013 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in H-World's February 2013 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the H-World home page.
CCSU Emeritus firstname.lastname@example.org > From: David Hertzel > Southwestern Oklahoma State University > email@example.com > > ... particular obstacles we find... This does not deter me; in fact if > he would select one objection or point from which we could proceed, we > might discuss this more plainly. Many of the devils he describes in > the details continue to play out in our modern world, which makes them > all the more important to address in the classroom and in our > research. Obstacles there are, but I argued that a moral perspective is unavoidable. So let me raise three examples to see whether it provides a target or a reassurance. When discussing the past, it might be suggested that we should look at actions in context, the real possibilities offered by a situation, the personal circumstances of the actor and the actor's cultural environment. This might seem to offer an objective analysis, but not so for two reasons. First, it is impossible to assess these factors except through the lens of our own culture. A situation does not reduce to chaotic phenomena (observational data), but we assemble them into a coherent whole. There is also the question of whether reality can be reduced to phenomena in the first place. In connection with this I mention an article I read this morning. I don't agree with the conclusion, but it does nicely expose the difficulties: Michael Roberts, "Rethinking the Postmodern Perspective: Excavating the Kantian System to Rebuild Social Theory", The Sociological Quarterly (2000). 41:4, 681-698. Unfortunately, noumena here seems to reduce to cognitive processing. Second, there has in recent years been a plethora of discussion over the collapse of civilization. Unfortunately, no one quite knows what "civilization" means, and there is the possibility that "collapse" may be a myth or gross simplification (Lawler, "Collapse. What Collapse? Societal Change Revisited" Science (2010). N.S. 330:6006, 907-909). Arguably the notion "collapse of civilization" is an artifact of WWI; something good is ceasing to exist. Third, even were we able to acquire an objective knowledge of the factors involved in a situation, this still entails the modern Western outlook. For example, many assume that there was an "ancient economy". This requires the presumption of a closed system in which novelties arise because of the causal relation of economic factors. "Factors" turn out to be problematic (they imply a reified totality), especially if they are causal agents. Furthermore, action becomes intelligible only if it is "rational" in the sense it is guided by an objective or the satisfaction of a value. Is that how real people generally act? The Roberts article above sees Spinoza, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche as offering an alternative to the closed world view of Descartes and Kant, although I believe Roberts does not really escape it, in part because of his phenomenalism. Haines