Thursday, May 03, 2007

My Shameful Philosophical Ignorance, At Last Dispelled

I always sort of wondered whether my ideas about things had a dignified intellectual pedigree. If so, I thought, what is it? If not, how did I cobble together this bunch of nonsense?

It turns out, at least in one important respect, they do have a history, although a sordid and unwelcome one: Immanuel Kant.
"Because a ... community widely prevails among the Earth's peoples," Kant remarked, "a transgression of rights in one place in the world is felt everywhere." John Rawls argued that we should choose society's main rules as if we did not even know which family or ethnic group we belong to. To a pure liberal, if people are dying in a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing, all that matters is that people are dying.
The article, which is actually a New Republic book review, goes on to point out that in practice this doesn't work politically, but it captures exactly how I've always felt. In fact I took it for granted that everyone felt this way. I guess I'm wrong. But I can blame it on an obscurantist, doddering old Prussian now.


Blogger nolo said...

I love Kant. Then again, I'm generally considered sordid and unwelcome.

12:49 PM  

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