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304 pages, Paperback
First published September 28, 1982
It is one more illusion and a peculiarly modern one, the illusion of a power not ourselves that claims to make for righteousness. Hence the manager as character is other than he at first sight seems to be: the social world of everyday hard-headed practical pragmatic no-nonsense realism which is the environment of management is one which depends for its sustained existence on the systematic perpetuation of misunderstanding and of belief in fictions. The fetishism of commodities has been supplemented by another just as important fetishism, that of bureaucratic skills. For it follows from my whole argument that the realm of managerial expertise is one in which what purport to be objectively-grounded claims function in fact as expressions of arbitrary, but disguised, will and preference. (p. 107)
Yet it is not of course just that Nietzsche's moral philosophy is false if Aristotle's is true and vice versa. In a much stronger sense Nietzsche's moral philosophy is matched specifically against Aristotle's by virtue of the historical role which each plays. For, as I argued earlier, it was because a moral tradition of which Aristotle's thought was the intellectual core was repudiated during the transitions of the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries that the Enlightenment project of discovering new rational secular foundations for morality had to be undertaken. And it was because tha project failed, because the views advanced by its most intellectually powerful protagonists, and more especially Kant, could not be sustained in the face of rational criticism that Nietzsche and all his existentialist and emotivist successors were able to mount their apparently successful critique of all previous morality. Hence the defensibility of the Nietzschean position turns in the end on the answer to the question: was it right in the first place to reject Aristotle? For if Aristotle's position in ethics and politics--or something very like it--could be sustained, the whole Nietzschean enterprise would be pointless. This is because the power of Nietzsche's position depends upon the truth of one central thesis: that all rational vindications of morality manifestly fail and that therefore belief in the tenets of morality needs to be explained in terms of a set of rationalizations which conceal the fundamentally non-rational phenomena of the will. (p. 117)
If a premodern view of morals and politics is to be vindicated against modernity, it will be in something like Aristotelian terms or not at all. (p. 118)
What has yet to be invented in the twelfth century is an institutional order in which the demands of divine law can more easily be heard and lived out in a secular society outside the monasteries.
All the structures of intentionality would be what they are now. The task of supplying an epistemological basis for these false simulacra of natural science would not differ in phenomenological terms from the task as it is presently envisaged. (2)Author advances the hypothesis that “in the actual world which we inhabit the language of morality is in the same state of grave disorder” (id.). We have rather a “simulacra of morality” (id.)—curious! What indeed was the catastrophe to produce our grave disorder? In Miller’s Canticle for Liebowitz, it was global thermonuclear warfare, of course. I suspect one might make the case that the cause is the same for us with respect to morality (i.e., did we finally jump the shark in 1945?), though dude doesn’t lay that down, except to state, somewhat dogmatically, that “a central thesis of this book is that the breakdown of this project [of an independent rational justification of morality] provided the historical background against which the predicaments of our own culture can become intelligible” (39).
the forms and claims of kinship, although not the same in fifth-century Athens as they had been in earlier centuries, survive in substantial form. The aristocratic household preserves a good deal of Homer in life as well as in poetry. But the Homeric values no longer define the moral horizon, just as the household or kinship group are now part of a larger and very different unit [having earlier lamented that the effect of the Oresteia is to remove moral decision-making from the oikos to the polis OH NOS]. There are no more kings, even though many of the virtues of kingship are still held to be virtues. (132)This leads to the conclusion that “the conception of a virtue has now become strikingly detached from that of any particular social role” (id.). Virtue has been radically decentered, and this is an apocalypse for some people. Lotsa working through Athenian virtues, Aristotle’s ideas. Very cool, actually, even if in support of raising a corpse several millennia buried.
it is with the virtues and the telos which is the good life for man on Aristotle’s account. The exercise of the virtues is itself a crucial component of the good life for man. (id.)That is, the end of Aristotelian ethics is an aesthetics.
According to Franklin in his Autobiography the virtues are means to an end, but he envisages the means-ends relationship as external rather than internal. The end to which cultivation of the virtues ministers is happiness. (185)Dude desperately wants to throw Moore’s emotivism under the bus, but is unable to do so, if virtue is simply a matter of aesthetics—he even argues that “the authority of both goods and standards operates in such a way as to rule out all subjectivist and emotivist analyses of judgment. De gustibus est disputandum [sic]” (190). That is, taste is disputable, a fatal admission if one is attempting to pull ethics out of aesthetics. So, in killing off Moore's emotivism, we are here only killing off the relativism and keeping the aesthetics, which strikes me as a bakhtinian monologism, a single tone of seriousness. Whose tone, then?
For liberal individualism a community is simply an arena in which individuals each pursue their own self-chosen conception of the good life, and political institutions exist to provide that degree of order which makes such self-determined activity possible. Government and law are, or ought to be, neutral between rival conceptions of the good life for man [!], and hence, although it is the task of government to promote law-abidingness, it is on the liberal view no part of the legitimate function of government to inculcate any one moral outlook. (195)Jefferson’s preferred virtues were good for a “society of small farmers,” whereas “the institutions of modern commercial society” threaten them (id). (All that is solid melts into air. Duh?) This text is probably one of the more important recent instances of anti-capitalism from the Right, however, with statements such as “the tradition of the virtues is at variance with central features of the modern economic order and more especially its individualism, its acquisitiveness and its elevation of the values of the market to a central social place” (254). He also rejects “the modern political order” (255): “Modern systematic politics, whether liberal, conservative, radical, or socialist, simply has to be rejected from a standpoint that owes genuine allegiance to the tradition of the virtues; for modern politics itself expresses in its institutional forms a systematic rejection of that tradition” (id.)—so, what’s left? Fascism? Aristocracy? Primitivism? Theocracy?
It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of what is being decided, so authoritatively and so decisively, at the very moment when what is in question is to decide on what must remain undecided. (loc. cit. at 54)What I have come to understand in reading this text, then, is that there is an authoritative moment of decision in electing an aretaic ethics over a deontology, say.