Stanley Fish, summarizing Habermas, is right:
The Liberal state, resting on a base of procedural rationality, delivers no... goals or reasons and thus suffers, Habermas says, from a “motivational weakness”; it cannot inspire its citizens to virtuous (as opposed to self-interested) acts because it has lost “its grip on the images, preserved by religion, of the moral whole” and is unable to formulate “collectively binding ideals.”
[Warning: a "skim" of the article linked above might not be fair.]


Insignificant Wrangler said...

Pathos. Logos cannot go it alone.

There's probably a reason (har, har) I ended up investing so much attention in a Jewish philosopher whose works stand on the fringe of the "traditional" postmodern canon.

It seems Fish's conclusion would lead to a dialogic, agonistic relation between two incommensurable as the hope of the future(?):

"Religions resist becoming happy participants in a companionable pluralism and insist on the rightness, for everyone, of their doctrines. Liberal rationality is committed to pluralism and cannot affirm the absolute rightness of anything except its own (empty) proceduralism."

fenhopper said...

who cares if government can't inspire the people? should government--or specifically, policy--even try to inspire?

Casey said...

Fen. I keep thinking that what you don't understand is that government is, at best, like a well-drawn up play in basketball. And that it requires the players to "cut hard," and to set strong picks, and give believable head-fakes, and so on...

Bad metaphor? I mean the idea, as I understand it with Habermas, is that there needs to be a cultural dynamic that works in conjunction with a political system. If there isn't, things can get awful. See the Russian and Chinese "cultural revolutions," for example...

If government doesn't inspire "happy participation," but is content to govern without spirited consent... then... that's really bad, it seems to me.

But I think you do understand all of this -- and probably are just playing the spirituo-libertarian card, right? Like, you're just saying, let religion take care of religion, and government do the governing?

Santos: Right. But stop using that word "agonistic." I have to look it up every time you and/or Nathaniel use it.

And you're right about Levinas, actually. As long as you're actually reading him, at least sometimes, as a "Jewish" philosopher, and not just as a philosopher.

fenhopper said...

hmmm. i see government as just making sure the floorboards are even.

fenhopper said...

(oh, and the rims are equal height)

Casey said...

See, I see you as wanting to make sure that the score always comes out a tie.

Because you don't really think a government can even the heights of the rims and level the floorboards, do you? Does anyone? Do you!?

Some people are really short, you know. And others have one stump-leg. So even equally high rims and level floor boards aren't going to do the trick.

But I get it. I do. I hear you. This is a basic/fundamental difference in worldview, and that's okay. So you don't irritate me at all.

[Though, as usual, I would be interested in having that whole conversation: can we really determine from consistent outcomes that the rims are of different height?--is it possible that one "team" (ahem) wins almost every time despite the fact that the rims are of equal height?--and how are we measuring "height" anyway?]

What does irritate me is the kind of nonsense I heard at lunch (again) today:

Colleague A: Well, I think we should be more direct in challenging our students' opinions, because, you know, all they want to say is, "everyone's entitled to their opinion"--but it's like, no: either you care about the suffering and difficulties of the poor or you don't care.

Colleague B: Right, so, with something like healthcare, you're saying we should just be that direct, and not let them fall back on "everybody has an opinion?"

Colleague A: Right. We should make them express that either they care about poor people, and support this healthcare legislation, or they don't give a crap about poor people.

Chorus: Aye aye!

Casey [inwardly]: GRRRRRRRRRumble. (which manifests at lunch as a half-smile and glazing eyes)

Casey said...

Well, don't break the metaphor like that, unless you really need to.

Do you need to? I mean, the way I see it, you could stay in my metaphor. I mean, I get the impression that you think in material terms when it comes to politics... and so then it's all about getting a slice of the pie, right? So there are winners and losers. So life is like a basketball game.

I mean, I would be happy to work outside this metaphor. In fact, now that you remind me, I feel like I'm the one who shouldn't accept the competitive metaphor. Ya'll are the ones concerned about equality. To me, life is more like walking through a giant world full of varied experiences where some people step in poop and others see rainbows and... wait. That's not a metaphor anymore, is it?

fenhopper said...

but i do need to stake out the metaphor because it'll change my answer of whether the score matters or not, and whether 'making a basket' is the only measure of success. not even in a basketball game is 'scoring' necessary for an individual's success.

since you tried to clarify via metaphor, i need to know what are the tenor and vehicle of your metaphor, right?

Casey said...

Well I guess it's a bad metaphor, if you're willing to question the evenness of the floor-boards. Or maybe it's a good metaphor, but not a very useful one.

But I get: you're saying the game is uneven. I'm saying I'm not (as) concerned about evenness.

And this has been helpful: it's returned me (us) to that foundational disagreement about how pressing an issue "equality" is...