A paradox, it is claimed, is a radical form of contradiction, one that produces gaps in meaning. In order to approach this idea, two senses of “separation” are distinguished: separation by something and separation by nothing. The latter does not refer to nothing in an ordinary sense, however, since in that sense what’s intended is actually less than nothing. Numerous ordinary nothings in philosophy as well as in other fields are surveyed so as to clarify the contrast. Then follows the (...) suggestion that philosophies which one would expect to have room for paradoxes actually tend either to exclude them altogether, or to dull them. There is a clear alternative, however, one that fully recognizes paradoxes and yet also strives to overcome them. (shrink)
Kierkegaard’s ideal supports a radical form of “deep diversity,” to use Charles Taylor’s expression. It is radical because it embraces not only irreducible conceptions of the good but also incompatible ones. This is due to its paradoxical nature, which arises from its affirmation of both monism and pluralism, the One and the Many, together. It does so in at least three ways. First, in terms of the structure of the self, Kierkegaard describes his ideal as both unified (the “positive third”) (...) and plural (a “negative unity”). Second, he affirms a process which brings together unity, as implied by the linear notion of “stages”, with plurality, in the form of “spheres of existence” (aesthetic, ethical, and religious). And third, the culmination of the process implies that we should embrace both a unified dialectic (“Religiousness A”) alongside the plural remnants of the ethical/aesthetic, that is, both the infinity of the former and the finitudes of the latter. Unsurprisingly, while Kierkegaard describes those who are able to exemplify his ideal in practice as “always joyful,” he also considers the ideal to be “extremely hard, the hardest task of all.” This is why those such as Hubert L. Dreyfus are wrong to claim that it provides an experience of bliss; on the contrary, those who realize it “are always in danger.” As I shall show, one form this danger takes is that it threatens to dirty the hands of those who manage to uphold Kierkegaard’s ideal. Moreover, it does so in ways that, I claim, tend to be missed by Kierkegaard himself. Nevertheless, the danger is also essential to the creativity of his approach, and I conclude by pointing out how this creativity makes it capable of tackling one of the profoundest challenges in contemporary ethics: that arising from what just war theorists call a “supreme emergency.” . (shrink)
Given the concern they share for the common good, both patriotic and deliberative conceptions of democracy can be said to have roots in classical republicanism. But these two modern approaches to politics are not the same. In order to show this, as well as demonstrate patriotism's superiority to deliberative democracy, I offer four criticisms of the latter: (i) its support of a theory or systematic set of procedures for conversation distorts its practice; (ii) it is ideologically biased; (iii) its distinction (...) between conversation and negotiation is overstated; and (iv) its conception of the political community, in particular, of the proper relations between the state and civil society, is impoverished. The essay concludes with the suggestion that the debate in political philosophy between patriots and deliberative democrats is itself an exemplification of patriotic, rather than deliberative, conversation. (shrink)
The problem of “dirty hands” concerns the possibility that there are situations in which, no matter what one does, there is no way to avoid committing a moral wrong. By presenting a taxonomy, this paper contends that the different ways of responding to the problem correspond to different positions as regards the classic metaphysical theme of “the One and the Many.” It is then suggested that the best, because most realistic, response aligns with an approach that would have us move (...) “towards One, as Many.”. (shrink)
This paper contrasts five contemporary political philosophies – neutralism, postmodernism, pluralism, anarchism, and patriotism – and argues that the latter is superior. This is because of how patriotism relates to the various political ideologies, including liberalism, conservatism, socialism, nationalism, feminism, and so on. A new, patriotic conception of the political spectrum is then advanced, one based on how people should respond to conflict: those on the left would have us do so with conversation; those in the centre with negotiation; and (...) those on the right with force. -/- This is a new version of the paper originally published under the same name in Public Affairs Quarterly 15, no. 3 (July 2001): 193–217; as well as as chapter 1 of my Patriotic Elaborations: Essays in Practical Philosophy (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009). (shrink)
How might we mend the world? Charles Blattberg suggests a "new patriotism," one that reconciles conflict through a form of dialogue that prioritizes conversation over negotiation and the common good over victory. This patriotism can be global as well as local, left as well as right. Blattberg's is a genuinely original philosophical voice. The essays collected here discuss how to re-conceive the political spectrum, where "deliberative deomocrats" go wrong, why human rights language is tragically counterproductive, how nationalism is not really (...) secular, how many nations should share a single state, a new approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and why Canada might have something to teach about the "war on terror." We also learn about the right way to deny a role to principles in ethics, how to distinguish between the good and the beautiful, the way humor works, the rabbinic nature of modernism, the difference between good, bad, great, and evil, why Plato's dialogues are not really dialogues, and why most philosophers are actually artists. (shrink)
Loving Wisdom.Charles Blattberg - 2008 - In Patriotic Elaborations: Essays in Practical Philosophy. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press.details
An account of the three rival conceptions of Western philosophy: "theoretical," "difference," and "practical." -/- Posted 29 January 2023. Note that a previous version of this paper appears as chapter 13 of my Patriotic Elaborations: Essays in Practical Philosophy (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009).
Charles Taylor defines `hypergoods' as the fundamental, architechtonic goods that serve as the basis of our moral frameworks. He also believes that, in principle, we can use reason to reconcile the conflicts that hypergoods engender. This belief, however, relies upon a misindentification of hypergoods as goods rather than as works of art, an error which is itself a result of an overly adversarial conception of practical reason. For Taylor fails to distinguish enough between ethical conflicts and those relating to the (...) religio-aesthetic domain. A proper identification of hypergoods as aesthetic, moreover, requires us to revise his accounts of ordinary life, of evil and of the controversy over university curricula. (shrink)
The moral and political philosophy of pluralism has become increasingly influential. To pluralists, when values genuinely conflict we should aim to strike an appropriate balance or trade-off between them, though this means accepting that compromise will be inevitable. Politics, as a result, appears as a thoroughly tragic affair. Drawing on a "hermeneutical" conception of interpretation, the author develops an original account of practical reasoning, one which assumes that, though making compromises in the face of conflicts is indeed often unavoidable, there (...) are times when reconciliation, as distinct from compromise, is feasible. For this to be so, however, citizens must strive to converse--and not just negotiate--with each other, thus fulfilling the good that is at the heart of their shared political community. This is the central message of the patriotic alternative to pluralist politics that the author defends here. (shrink)
While both Isaiah Berlin and William James are widely seen as pluralists, this paper contends that neither is a pluralist tout court. Berlin certainly is a pluralist when it comes to morality and politics, but he is a monist when it comes to nature. And James is, paradoxically, both a pluralist and a monist as regards all of reality. These claims are advanced by showing how both thinkers’ approaches contrast with those of monists, not least Plato, Hegel, and Nietzsche. They (...) are also shown to be associated with different narrative genres: tragedy in Berlin’s case, and tragicomedy in James’. The paper then concludes with a brief discussion of an alternative approach, one that treads a path in between monism and pluralism and, because of this, favours a particular form of comedy. (shrink)
Posted 30 January 2023. A previous version was published as “A New Approach for Zionists: Conversation,” Palestine-Israel Journal 14, no. 2 (2007): 100–104. For a longer version of the argument, see my “Going Rabin One Further” in Patriotic Elaborations: Essays in Practical Philosophy (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009).
John Rawls’ gamification of justice leads him – along with many other monist political philosophers, not least Ronald Dworkin – to fail to take politics seriously enough. I begin with why we consider games frivolous and then show how Rawls’ theory of justice is not merely analogous to a game, as he himself seems to claim, but is in fact a kind of game. As such, it is harmful to political practice in two ways: one as regards the citizens who (...) participate directly in it, and the other as regards those who do no more than follow it. Similar harms, I then argue, come from taking politics too seriously, which is the attitude I ascribe to pluralist political philosophers such as Isaiah Berlin, Stuart Hampshire, and Bernard Williams. To them, the plural, incommensurable nature of values means that they cannot be reconciled and so that politics must be a matter of negotiating dirty, and often tragic, compromises. What we need instead, I conclude, is a third way, one that is neither monist nor pluralist but in-between the two extremes. (shrink)
The ‘liberal-communitarian’ debate arose within anglophone political philosophy during the 1980s. This essay opens with an account of the main outlines of the debate, showing how liberals and communitarians tended to confront each other with opposing interpretations of John Rawls’ Theory of Justice (1999; originally published in 1971) and Political Liberalism (2005; originally published in 1993). The essay then proceeds to discuss four forms of ‘liberalism after communitarianism’: Michael Freeden’s account of liberalism as an ideology; Joseph Raz and Will Kymlicka’s (...) perfectionist liberalisms; the liberalism of value pluralists such as Isaiah Berlin and Bernard Williams; and Judith N. Shklar’s liberalism of fear. It concludes with the suggestion that there are times when liberals of every kind should set aside their ideology, even if only temporarily, in order to listen to their interlocutors with truly open minds. (shrink)
The terms “patriotism” and “nationalism” are distinguished historically, conceptually, and geographically. Historically, patriotism is shown to have roots in the classical republican tradition of political thought, according to which citizens should give priority to the common good of their political or civic, as distinct from national, community. Conceptually, it is argued that patriotism is best understood as a political philosophy, an account of the form or forms of dialogue that citizens should engage in when responding to their conflicts, whereas nationalism (...) is a political ideology, an account of the kinds of things that citizens should be saying within those dialogues, in particular, when they take the form of negotiation. Patriotism, then, is that political philosophy which endorses the maxim “conversation first, negotiation second, force third,” since conversation between citizens has the best prospects for realizing and developing the common good. Nationalism, by contrast, is the ideology of those who, when it comes to political negotiations, give the greatest weight to the needs of their national community. Finally, regarding geography, patriotism is shown to be concerned with the jurisdiction of the state, whereas nationalism emphasizes the permanent and sharply demarcated territory where the national community is located. The chapter then concludes with the recommendation that we all need to affirm a global patriotism, alongside the more local forms. (shrink)
Charles Taylor’s idea of “deep diversity” has played a major role in the debates around multiculturalism in Canada and around the world. Originally, the idea was meant to account for how the different national communities within Canada – those of the English-speaking Canadians, the French-speaking Quebeckers, and the Aboriginals – conceive of their belonging to the country in different ways. But Taylor conceives of these differences strictly in terms of irreducibility; that is, he fails to see that they also exist (...) in such a way that the country cannot be said to form a unified whole. After giving an account of the philosophical as well as religious reasons behind his position, the chapter goes on to describe some of its political implications. (shrink)
An account of two sources of the "minimal global ethic," one interpretive and the other creative. Humour, more specifically slapstick, is the interpretive source, while "revelation" as present in both Rabbinic Judaism and Modernism is the creative source. The question of the ethic and conflict is then briefly discussed. This version, posted 22 January 2023, is a revised form of the chapter from the book published in 2009.
Just war theory − as advanced by Michael Walzer, among others − fails to take war seriously enough. This is because it proposes that we regulate war with systematic rules that are comparable to those of a game. Three types of claims are advanced. The first is phenomenological: that the theory's abstract nature interferes with our judgment of what is, and should be, going on. The second is meta-ethical: that the theory's rules are not, in fact, systematic after all, there (...) being inherent contradictions between them. And the third is practical: that by getting people to view war as like a game, the theory promotes its ‘aestheticization’ (play being a central mode of the aesthetic) such that those who fight are encouraged to act in dangerous ways. And war, it goes without saying, is already dangerous enough. (shrink)
Human rights have made mass murder and genocide more, rather than less, likely. -/- Posted 21 December 2022. A previous version of this paper appears as chapter 3 of my Patriotic Elaborations: Essays in Practical Philosophy (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009).