Ethical Consensus and the Truth of Laughter: The Structure of Moral Transformations

Kok Pharos Pub. House (1996)
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There are several strategies for exposing the defects of established moral discourse, one of which is critical argumentation. However, under certain specific historical circumstances, the apparent self-evidence of established moral discourse has gained such dominance, such a capacity of resistance or incorporation, such an ability to conceal its basic vulnerability that its validity simply seems beyond contestation. Notwithstanding the moral subject’s basic discontent, he or she remains unable to challenge the dominant discourse effectively by means of critical argument. Or, to borrow a phrase from Michel Foucault, individuals find themselves faced with a certain rationality, a moral regime that dominates moral discourse to such an extent that they cannot offer any resistance without raising the suspicion of being unreasonable. They (that is, we) find ourselves confronted with a discourse quite unable to recognize its own deficiencies. Although we are forced to accept its basic claims, our chronic discontent nevertheless persists. That is, although we are forced to participate in this discourse, we remain basically ambivalent, and our attitude towards established morality contains both a Yes and a No. Then, all of a sudden, the basic vulnerability of the dominant regime dawns on us or is revealed to us – and this is the experience of laughter.



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Hub Zwart
Erasmus University Rotterdam

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Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity.Richard Rorty - 1989 - The Personalist Forum 5 (2):149-152.

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