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Politics and Ethics

User Thread
 35yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that wittgensteins is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Politics and Ethics
The only thing better than provoking a debate is ending a debate. I fear the latter honour will prove beyond me. But few issues are more important than the one I intend to tackle here. A good index of such a thing is the fact that it is on everybody's mind but nobody's lips - like death.

Politics: need we define it? Scolars like Leftwich, Laswell and Downs have thought so, but their attempts have for the most part been will o' the wisp, ideologically rigged or even just too simple. Besides, it is a fallacy to say that we can't know anything of something because we can't decisively define it. I defy anybody to define "Englishness". There will always be a trade-off between generality and specificity. Yet nobody would clearly consider jettisoning the notion wholesale.

Whilst I can accept in principle what Durkheim says about soical facts, I would buttress this with the caveat that there is, embedded in any statement of social or cultural or political vintage, at least a tacit evaluative concession, however disguised or qualified. But - and this is the rub - this evaluative element is not something inescapably primitive or redundant; it has, in fact, a basis in "reality", less clear, but just as vital, as any given proposition about the natural world. Although I reject outright any suggestion that ethics can be turned into a science, there is an unmistakable regularity about the moral schemes laid down throughout the human world (As CS Lewis poitned out, "try to imagine a country where it is considered virtuous to run away from battle or cheat on your friends, and you may as well imagine a country where 1+1=3"). Shelving, for a moment, the anthropologist's claim to have exploded all breeds of moral objectivism, consider this: when we call an act wrong, we do not mean, as the Deontologists aver, that this is because it contravenes a law laid down from on high, because that only begs the question. Nor is right to say, with the Consequentialists, that good and bad reside outside of their being brought about: otherwise an act could be wrong one day, right another. And this we do not mean.

What I want to say is this: ethics, and so politics, are concerned with a maximisation of the good: and this good is, not happiness, but beauty, which itself is only a by-word for what we intrinsically value, for what is personal or numinous. We might even say that virtue is doing God's will. In so conceiving it we steer clear of the Scylla of barren rule following and dodge the Charybdis of homogenising.

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