Yet today failures of common sense are the common currency of our daily understanding. We find that social workers, council employees, even policemen fail to live up to the standards that used to be encapsulated in, for example, the fictional Dixon of Dock Green. Officials who cannot rescue a drowning child because they have not been given the appropriate training, and policemen whom the law requires to warn householders against protecting their property in any way that might threaten danger to the intruding burglar, are denizens of the surreal world we have managed to create.
Common sense is supremely lacking in many cases that come before employment tribunals, and in many sexual harassment cases, which the more robust women of earlier times would have disposed of with a fast word or a brisk slap. Of course these newspaper stories are a touch more complicated than this would suggest, but there is no doubt that such virtues as robustness and self-reliance have collapsed in the world of those sensitive opportunists who so often resort to law.
Integrity, in a world where the moral life is thought to have been exhausted by a schedule of rights, is even less in evidence as regulatory than common sense. The whole scandal of parliamentary expenses dramatised this point.
On the other hand, the overarching role of prudence, leading people to caution about the dangers to their personal interests, is unmistakable. It is perhaps most dramatically exhibited in the recoil from commitment found in our profoundly unromantic age.
Disagreeing in context
Indeed, the most dramatic image of our moral condition is perhaps the popularity of pop concerts designed to help the malnourished in underdeveloped countries. These concerts are patronised by grandstanding moralists many of whom cannot even make the commitment of marriage. Terms and conditions apply. Smith added, significantly, that he did not know that much good ever came from claims to trade in the public interest. These traditional moralists remain a force in the land, and every time capitalist prosperity stumbles, they are on hand to declare that market societies are finished.
The simplest corruption of this kind is simply to identify self-interest with the vice of selfishness. The most confused version of it is to be found in the slogan that people should be put before profit. If profit is being made, one might observe, some people, at least, are getting something out of it. But then, as normative philosophers such as Amartya Sen sometimes observe, we who live in capitalist societies are not all bad. And it is indeed in this balance between self-interest and altruism that we may find the dominant self-understanding of the moral life in our time.
And as far as it goes, it points to perfectly real virtues in Western society.
But it does not go very far. It mistakes the part-altruism-for the whole of what actually distinguishes Western civilisation from the rest. For the remarkable thing about European societies is less their altruism than the space that their basically Christian culture has allowed for disinterested activities.
The vast inventiveness of modern European societies has come from its opening up of the possibility of people using their own talent and resources to do things they just happen to want to do. It is always possible, of course, to attach some notional psychological satisfaction to such doings in order to bring them under the rubric of self-interestedness, but this fallacious slide is merely a fast way of misunderstanding what our freedom means. They sometimes take it for signifying being bored, or uninterested in some area.
Because Christianity left space for people to explore their own inclinations rather than prescribing a customary life encompassing everything, Europeans became an enterprising lot, and the fruits of that enterprise can be seen in everything from the creation of universities in the Middle Ages to the formalisation of sport in the later modern period. The charitable activities of many Europeans, in all sorts of causes and in the British case in the service of all sorts of people, were merely part of this explosion of enterprise, of which commerce and inventiveness were one part, just as charity was another.
The danger, of course, is that once disinterested activities prove to be valuable, as so many things done just because people liked doing them have proved to be, the regulators move in. Governments want to instrumentalise universities, and gamblers to have their wicked ways with sport. The inside story of how Nick Clegg and his allies ruthlessly organise their opposition to repatriating powers to the UK. The results have been catastrophic. The government now has an opportunity to reform our human rights laws — but progress will be tricky. Profound weaknesses leave us open to political warfare from Russia and China—weaknesses which they are ruthlessly exploiting.
The Rise of Rights and the Fall of Man.
The Rise of Rights and the Fall of Man | Kenneth Minogue | Standpoint
Kenneth Minogue. Features Human Rights. Slice 1. What to read next.
Michael Pinto-Duschinsky. Because of this, what we i.
If the disagreement in 1 , as in 7 , results from conflicting dispositions and is about which standard should be adopted, what exactly drives Clarissa and Jennifer to try to impose their own standard? If and when subjects are disputing which standard should be adopted, they are disputing what they collectively should be disposed to dis value. To repeat, on a dispositional account of value along the lines of Lewis's, a standard of taste is a kind of dispositional property, the disposition to value certain things.
The dispositions at stake are first-person plural. This should yield the desired result. Clarissa finds cow's tongue disgusting. The theory should ascribe to her the disposition to value, i. Jennifer, however, desires that we desire to eat cow's tongue. Clarissa and Jennifer's desires amount to a disagreement in attitudes because they cannot be jointly satisfied at the same world. A remaining question is the following: Why does it matter that people share a common value standard? In particular, why does a shared standard matter for tasty or disgusting , but not for fancying?
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The beginning of a solution should take coordination into account. Coordination plays a role in a different sense of agreement to the ones discussed so far—namely, in the sense of an agreement as a convention. For Lewis, , conventions are solutions to coordination problems. Lewis follows Hume's account of convention and agreement in the Treatise :. It is only a general sense of common interest… I observe, that it will be to my interest [e. When this common sense of interest is mutually expressed and is known to both, it produces a suitable resolution and behavior.
What connects coordination with the kind of de nobis dispositions claimed to be central in evaluative properties? Bacharach and Gold and Sudgen have done a considerable amount of work on the role of first-personal plural intentions in decision-theoretic reasoning irreducibly involving groups with which agents identify These dispositions are essential for group cohesion. And it explains where the conflict of attitudes arises.
I next offer a conjecture as to why we have such de nobis dispositions. The conjecture advanced here involves various components. The first is a commonly shared assumption among evolutionary cognitive scientists, namely that various kinds of coordination problems are at the root of our having, as humans, evolved to have the dispositions we have.
The second component connects this evolutionary assumption with dispositional theories of value, such as Lewis's. As a result, value judgments about matters of taste, aesthetics or morality are such that they both express dispositional properties and, crucially, reveal conflicts when dispositions vary.
The present conjecture seems to be confirmed by research in biology, evolutionary psychology and anthropology. The conjecture, to be clear, is that our preference for some converging dispositions, and our aversion to some diverging dispositions, has an evolutionary explanation connected with finding needed solutions to recurrent coordination problems.
The conjecture is corroborated for instance by Tooby and Cosmides's work. Our distinctive capacity for cooperative behavior was, they have argued, evolutionarily important for human survival. Tooby and Cosmides summarizes many of their results. Coordination to achieve common goals is necessary for coalitions, and it is also necessary that cooperators are not outcompeted by free-riders.
Related are moral value judgments merely expression of taste
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