The World Explored, the World Suffered Education Issue Nr. 30 May 2020 - Page 6

Editorial : 20th Issue May 1st 2020 Blog: http://michaelrdjames.org/ The first lecture is entitled “ The decline of the assumption of justification in modern ethics”: “Jonathan Lear in his excellent work "Aristotle: the desire to understand" points out that we moderns living in our modern world do not have resort to the kind of Universal justifications that we used 300 years ago under the auspices of Religion. Lear also claims that we do not approach ethical issues as the Greeks did in the Ancient World by recourse to actively seeking the reasons for our actions and activities (through complex deliberation procedures). Lear claims further that there are fundamental disparities between the Aristotelian and Kantian ethical positions: both philosophers, he argues, would have found each other's positions fundamentally flawed. In relation to Lear's first point, there is agreement that we moderns are generally not attuned to any particular kind of justification. Indeed the position we find ourselves in may be more serious. Under the auspices of a science that is theoretically obsessed by observation and experiment, we are inclined to believe that there is no universal justification for ethical behaviour: there is only a kind of subjective commitment that commands only accidental agreement. This position would, of course, for the Greeks, be anathema. Witness the bitter exchanges between the ethical relativists of the time and Socrates. One consequence of such an idea, namely, ruling groups ruling in their own interests was an idea that was decisively dismissed as a form of justification by Socrates in book one of the Republic. In this work, Plato combats relativism with his theory of the forms in general and the form or idea of the Good in particular. Aristotle, also in anti-relativistic spirit, is clear that there can only be one universal end or "justification" to strive towards in one's active life and that is a flourishing life: a life that all who are exercising their rationality must share. The route to this life for Aristotle was via the intellectual and moral virtues that amounted to the rational agent both deliberating correctly and then doing the right thing at the right time in the right way.” Kant would have agreed with this diagnosis of modern ethical theory and perhaps added a diagnosis of his own that acknowledged the regrettable role of the decline of Aristotelian influence during the Roman era. He would also have looked upon the alliance of Christianity and Platonic dualism with condisderable scepticism. A sketch for a Philosophical theory of religion also emerges in Kant as it did in Aristotle: “Kant saw the need to claim ethical deliberation be free from dogma and authoritarian indoctrination but was able to retain his faith in a religious/philosophical God that functioned in a manner very similar to Plato's idea of the Good from the Republic and also very similar to the Aristotelian God continually contemplating the essences or forms of the world. When we contemplate in a state of faith we are also capable of contemplating essences. This is particularly the case in our contemplation of ethical "forms" where the idea of God is evoked to ensure that we feel happy about being worthy of happiness as a consequence of our virtuous intentions and actions. The idea of Freedom, for Kant, however, in many ways