Some Thoughts on How We Moral Philosophers Live Now

The Monist 67 (4):490-497 (1984)
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Philosophers have always seen at least part of their job to be social criticism, where by that I mean not necessarily negative assessment of existing social practices, but rather the attempt to understand them, to see existing local ones against a background of other possibilities. Included among these surveyed practices are, or should be, practices of justification and criticism, our own included. Socrates set the standard when, in the Apology and Crito he turned his method on his own activity, both defending it and also showing understanding and acceptance of the judgment of those who condemned it. Most of us, after Socrates, have tried to emulate his self-conscious attention to philosophical method, but usually only to intellectual methods of reasoning, rarely following him in consciousness of the social role we play, and its relation to the whole network of roles in which it is embedded. Yet if our own activity is to justify itself, that justification surely depends upon the relation between what we are doing and the work done by others, including those who support us in the crude economic sense. It is not easy to survey the whole scheme of social roles and to consider alternative ways of dividing the social labor, but philosophers have often claimed to have synoptic vision. No greater hubris is involved in trying synoptically to survey a society's array of social roles, and its alternatives, than in purporting to produce moral principles valid in all conditions, or truths for all possible worlds.



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Annette Claire Baier
Last affiliation: University of Otago

Citations of this work

Technology in Applied Ethics: Moving From the Margins To the Center.Leonard J. Waks & Carl Mitcham - 1996 - Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society 16 (4):217-226.
Motion(Less) in Limine.Giles Scofield - 2005 - Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 33 (4):821-833.
Motion(less) in Limine.Giles Scofield - 2005 - Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 33 (4):821-833.

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