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(Text as at 12/08/2007 10:17:46)
The stance I am adopting here is that of a liberal ironist. This term, (but not necessarily the meaning I apply to it) is due to Richard Rorty.
- I use the term liberal to mean the view that as much freedom as possible should be given to people to act as they like and to believe what they like provided that they do not transgress too much on the freedom of others by so doing.
- While agreeing with Rorty (and Shklar) that "cruelty is the worst thing we do", I do not use this notion to define the liberal attitude, if only because cruelty (in the sense of hurting another) is a risk we undertake if we seek to interact with others meaningfully and deeply. A society that avoided cruelty at all costs would be too insipid.
- I borrow Rorty's term ironist, but use it to mean one who realises that all things are contingent (ie. could have been otherwise), who does not take himself too seriously and whose realisation that all knowledge is no more than probable allows him to leave space for the views and actions of others.
- However, I do not agree that our culture as a whole (and especially our scientific knowledge) is a chance development which could have been arbitrarily otherwise. There are obvious contingencies everywhere, but the fact (as I take it) that culture and science are responses to the world, which is given (even if we and it could, in a different world, have been otherwise), places constraints on the development of science and culture, including ethics.
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||Reference for this Topic
||437 (Non-theistic Ethics - Liberal Ironist)
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