Monday, January 14, 2008

TMP 14: From Avoidance, to Ethics, Aesthetics, and Avoidability

[Part of The Molyneux Project; read the main critique here]

Stefan builds on his explanation of what is just in these sections, introducing some clarification and new ideas. On page 51, Stefan writes, "For the moment, we can assume that any threat of the initiation of violence is immoral..." This seems to be a strengthening of the fourth claim discussed in the last post, that using violence is unjust unless it is preferable for achieving certain ends. The new claim seems to be that using violence is unjust unless, as a result of the actions of some other person, it has become preferable for achieving certain ends. This reflects Stefan's focus on the idea of "initiation," and would still allow the wife of the cheating husband to use violence to escape from her imprisonment, since she was put in her situation by the actions of her husband.

Stefan suggests a fifth claim when he writes, "...the more that a threat interferes with the normal course of daily actions, the more egregious it is." This seems clear enough; I actually suggested something like this in the last post when I wrote, "Stefan's view can be saved by redefining "inflict" in a way that would imply that an action inflicts something on a person if it does something to her which she cannot escape from. This seems like what Stefan is trying to say when he suggests that the case moves into the realm of ethics if the guest is chained to a chair." The cheating husband's imprisonment of his wife would be "more" unjust if he were prepared to hunt her down if she ran from him than it would be if the wife could simply have ran out the door to avoid being captured. This introduces a new idea, that things can not only be "just" and "unjust" (remember that as I pointed out in TMP 11, Stefan has not given us any explanation for what it means for something to be "just" or "unjust," he has simply been setting up the boundaries for "justice;" he still needs to tell us what "justice" is and why it matters); they can also be more or less just or unjust.

On page 50, Stefan also provides some clarification on the distinction drawn earlier between aesthetics and ethics. He writes, "This question of avoidance is key to differentiating aesthetics from ethics. Aesthetics applies to situations that may be unpleasant, but which do not eliminate your capacity to choose." This might seem slightly murky in light of Stefan's claim on page 40 that "Ethics is the subset of UPB which deals with inflicted behaviour, or the use of violence. Any theory that justifies or denies the use of violence is a moral theory..." It seems like any situation which is unpleasant as the result of someone else's behavior would involve the unpleasantness being "inflicted" upon the victim, and would therefore fall within the bounds of ethics and morality. But remember that I had to redefine "inflict" to talk about unpleasantness which can't be avoided, in order to explain why Stefan would say that nothing had been inflicted on a dinner guest who was free to leave. Under this new definition of what it means to "inflict" something on someone, Stefan and I are in agreement.

I'm going to cut this post short, since Stefan moves on to a new section from here, and in the interest of organization, I think it makes sense to keep this post separate.


Anonymous said...

okay, suppose you're on a plane and the plane has no empty seats left. the people two rows behind you are constantly shouting at each other which drives you mad. you can't leave the situation without a parachute and some risk, and your freedom to choose is impacted because of that and because you can't focus on anything due to the shouting going on. still, no violence or the threat thereof is used. so under styef's definition does this mean it is ethically wrong behavior on the parts of the people shouting. (note that this situation may be complicated because the plane may be private property, and because by buying the ticket you entered into a contract, but suppose it's one that leaves this type of situation unmentioned)

Danny Shahar said...

No physical violence is involved in such a situation, no. But recall that earlier, Stefan defined violence as "inflicted behavior." Under this definition of violence, and using a definition of "inflicted" which requires the unpleasantness to be unavoidable, it does seem like the shouting would constitute a violent behavior.

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