A Quick Note: De Quincy and Kant’s Legislation

As those of you who know me, or have followed the blog for a while, can guess, I am attracted to DQ’s account of Kant’s “new and severer legislation” because it captures the anti-psychologistic force of Kant’s work in logic and ethics.  I take DQ to recognize that Kant’s logic eschews the psychological, does not trespass into (and tolerates no trespass from) psychology.

I find DQ’s remarks to suggest Bradley’s more direct comment:  “We [English] have lived too long in the psychological attitude.”  Bradley was thinking of logic, but he could also have been thinking about ethics.

DQ’s remark about ethics puzzles me though, after I have read past its praiseworthy anti-psychologistic force.  Is eudaimonism psychologistic?  Centralizing moral psychology need not commit anyone to being psychologistic, since part of the point could be to undo the psychologizing of moral psychology.  –Just a thought or two.

8 responses

  1. DQ’s remark about ethics puzzles me though…

    Could it be that he’s trying to draw a contrast between Aristotelian eudaimonism (in which happiness is, at least partially, determined by external factors) and the Stoic’s version of eudaimonism (in which happiness is determined independent of external factors)? Maybe he’s not aware of the broader use of ‘eudaimonism’. And if that’s right, maybe by “effeminate dallyings” he means defining-happiness-in-(at least partial)terms-of-external-factors.

    Dworkin (in Justice For Hedgehods) distinguishes living well from having-a-good-life. Living well is determined by one’s ethics. Having-a-good-life is determined by one’s pleasure. In those terms, maybe DQ meant to say, “And ethics, [concerning itself only with living well] by renouncing all effeminate dallyings with [concern for having-a-good-life] would indirectly have cooperated with the sublime ideals of Christianity.”

    And, like you say, neither form of eudaimonism is necessarily psychologistic.

    • I’m not sure if my post makes sense, is beside the point, and/or goes without saying. But along the same lines as DQ’s distinction, NY Times columnist, David Brooks, is doing some (in my opinion) interesting work on the difference between these two ethics. He frames the issue in terms used by Rabbi Soloveitchik: Adam I vs. Adam II. Here is a brief explanation and here is an unpacking of it.

    • You might find Schopenhauer’s The Two Fundamental Problems Of Ethics of value. I think he is still underrated. Justice For The Hedgehogs is written in a style which I find way too intricate and complex . . . as though Dworkin wrote under the influence of a psychedelic and became fascinated with words forming sentences and paragraphs and so on like someone weaving a Persian rug, and forgot the readers.

      • Some Elaboration: In his Prize Essay On The Basis Of Morals, Schopenhauer, I believe, demolishes Kant’s attempt at ethics; he presents his own most simply–I once more. This is completely compatible with the New Testament and similar to C.S. Lewis and the universality of the Golden Rule. Hedgehog as well as After Virtue are large complex analyses that are difficult to follow and impossible to remember without a photographic memory. And what good would remembering be anyway? I am sure Dworkin was a decent and friendly man. He was a member of the elite, married a wealthy woman and lived a very good life, indeed, dying at 81 in London during his second marriage. A professor of law and philosophy during a period of time when the one thing lacking in the American judiciary was justice. Perhaps he spoke or wrote about this but nothing popular that I know of. What he did write was for the expert, the professor and perhaps the more scholarly judges here and there. It seems he wrote for the Crowd, i.e. the little crowd of elite Americans and British. I am sure he was welcome in the best society. An Alpha Plus Plus (Brave New World). About MacIntyre I only know he is a Catholic. It must be strange to be an influential figure when the institution you are most associated with is having a bit of trouble with corruption. My own position is that conscience is an aspect of our higher self or a higher aspect. Without conscience humans would never have made it through to the point where a Dworkin or Mcintyre could write lengthy books in academic solitude. Of course my idea goes against the modern grain and the fixation on the brain and even sounds suspiciously religious or the like. I would even go so far as to say that ethics is built into the universe and found in animals–dogs can be altruistic and often are. Man alone has the worst time abiding by his conscience. Too bad. Sorry. Tough luck! Let’s blame it on civilization and hierarchy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: