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Charles Blattberg

"Stating ideals," however ambiguous, does not leave fundamental ideological disagreement alone. Hegel long ago taught us that atomism is not metaphysically neutral. And if by "stating ideals" is meant articulating a list of rights, well what is this if not an atomisation of our sense of justice? Lists consist of independent elements, i.e. atoms. This leads to a very specific way of conceiving of their conflict: as a "clash" or "collision" of originally separate entities. Such a highly adversarial conception encourages a strictly zero-sum approach to conflict resolution, i.e. dialogue as negotiation, which strives for no more than compromise or balanced accommodation. What gets ruled out is dialogue as conversation, which is a higher quality form of conflict resolution since it aims for reconciliation rather than mere accommodation. It can because conversation is holistic rather than atomistic, given that it's about the common good. But we cannot converse about clashing rights.

Heath White

It is entirely conceivable to me that ambiguity in discussions of human rights might produce better political outcomes, at least in certain contexts. On the other hand, many philosophers might feel that this amounts to changing the game from pursuit of truth to pursuit of political outcomes.

Perhaps worth noting is that Holly Lawford-Smith suggests that trans rights activists are, in effect, doing the same kind of thing. https://quillette.com/2019/09/20/how-the-trans-rights-movement-is-turning-academic-philosophers-into-sloganeering-activists/

Maybe there is a question of what public philosophy is supposed to be: philosophy done at a level and on topics that the layperson can appreciate, or the brainy wing of a political movement. (And maybe there is another question of which episodes in the history of philosophy have been which.)

Eric Schliesser

Heath, you assume there is a contrast between tracking truth and tracking good consequences. That contrast is itself not self-evident.
Also, as I note, the defense of clarity tends itself be grounded in consequentialist arguments so the rejection of consequentialism comes at a cost.

Charles Blattberg

Eric, you don't accept that truth and justice sometimes conflict? Have you never told a white lie?

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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