The Sermon on the Mount is not abstract idealism. It connects to our political contest not least because it insists on the big questions of purpose and ends and how society should be ordered. Rooted in the Old Testament focus on the fair distribution of wealth (ensuring the poor get priority) – cf. Proverbs 2, 8, 9, 14, 15, 29 – the Sermon is a programme for social citizenship and local community development.
Aggregative consequentialism and several other popular moral theories are threatened with paralysis: when coupled with some plausible assumptions, they seem to imply that it is always ethically indifferent what you do. Modern cosmology teaches that the world might well contain an infinite number of happy and sad people and other candidate value-bearing locations. Aggregative ethics implies that such a world contains an infinite amount of positive value and an infinite amount of negative value. You can affect only a finite amount (...) of good or bad. In standard cardinal arithmetic, an infinite quantity is unchanged by the addition or subtraction of any finite quantity. So it appears you cannot change the value of the world. Modifications of aggregationism aimed at resolving the paralysis are only partially effective and cause severe side effects, including problems of “fanaticism”, “distortion”, and erosion of the intuitions that originally motivated the theory. Is the infinitarian challenge fatal? (shrink)
A set of basic static predicates, 'in itself, 'existing through itself, 'free', and others are taken to be (at least) extensionally equivalent, and some consequences are drawn in Parts A and ? of the paper. Part C introduces adequate causation and adequate conceiving as extensionally equivalent. The dynamism or activism of Spinoza is reflected in the reconstruction by equating action with causing, passion (passive emotion) with being caused. The relation between conceiving (understanding) and causing is narrowed down by introducing grasping (...) (λ μβ?νω) as a basic epistemological term. Part D, 'The road to freedom through active emotion', introduces a system of grading with respect to the distinctions introduced in the foregoing, including 'being in itself, 'freedom', etc. Active emotions are seen to represent transitions to a higher degree of freedom, the stronger and more active ones being the more conducive to rapid increase in degree of freedom. Elementary parts of the calculus of predicates are used in order to facilitate the survey of conceptual relations and to prove some theorems. (shrink)