Philosophy and Its Epistemic Neuroses

By Michael Hymers | Go to book overview

6
The Ethical-Political Argument

One of the most important tasks is to describe all the blind alleys of thought so vividly that the reader says "Yes, that is just what I meant." To hit off exactly the features of every error. You see, it is the right expression only if he recognizes it as such. (Psychoanalysis.) What the other person recognizes is that the analogy I am offering him is the source of his way of thinking.

-- Ludwig Wittgenstein, "The Big Typescript", in The Wittgenstein Reader

When Wittgenstein analogizes philosophy to therapy, he sometimes emphasizes the importance of describing a person's views in a way that she herself will concede to be accurate. The point here is not simply that one must be charitable in interpreting the views of another, but that if one wants to alleviate philosophical puzzlement, one must display both the contingency of the position held and the factors that make such a contingent position seem necessary or inevitable, and one must do this in such a way that the holder of the view will say, "Yes, that is what led me to such an opinion."

In the preceding chapter I tried to show that conceptual relativism gets its bite from the same set of assumptions that makes metaphysical realism and contemporary versions of the correspondence theory of truth attractive. But even if seeing that she shares such assumptions with her objectivist opponents gives the would-be relativist pause, I do not believe that this discovery by itself is likely to break the attraction of relativist views. Many such thinkers are attracted to relativism by the perceived political or ethical perniciousness of realism, and I think it is only by taking this attraction seriously and trying to trace it to its sources that one can hope to weaken it. 1 The would-be relativist needs to see her motivating concerns represented in a portrait of relativism before she can acknowledge it as presenting her own view and before she can allow that what she wants from such a view might be better had elsewhere.

What I shall call the "ethical-political" argument has sometimes been recognized by critics of relativism. Thus, Charles Taylor writes that relativism is tempt

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Philosophy and Its Epistemic Neuroses
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction: Philosophy and Neurosis 1
  • Notes 11
  • 1 - The "External" World 12
  • Notes 33
  • 2 - Internal Relations 36
  • Notes 53
  • 3 - Truth and Reference 57
  • Notes 77
  • 4 - Renouncing All Theory 80
  • Notes 100
  • 5 - Conceptual Schemes 103
  • Notes 124
  • 6 - The Ethical-Political Argument 127
  • Notes 148
  • 7 - Realism and Self-Knowledge 151
  • Notes 169
  • 8 - Self-Knowledge and Self-Unity 173
  • Notes 190
  • Conclusion: the Rhetoric of Neurosis 193
  • Notes 199
  • Credits 201
  • Reference List 202
  • Index 213
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