Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Moral experts

Philosophers as moral experts:
"We thus have a place for philosophers as advisers of individual clients. But I would stress their role as theorists even more, in which they would advise legislators on what the public policy should be on such things as abortion law, the use of extraordinary medical measures to prolong the lives of deformed babies or the terminally ill, etc. It is outrageous that national commissions on “ethics” and “morality” often consist mostly of unqualified laymen: physicians, priests, lawyers, etc., rather than professional philosophers (see Singer 1976)."

(h-t S&M)

1 comment:

Paul said...

Interesting notion, but surely the ovwerwhelming focus of Western philosophical questioning from Aristotle onwards has been around the metaphysical and the nature of reality, rather than on the metaethical, and any overall philosophical 'system' which is busy debating thje extent to which all is real or not real is not really in a position to go around giving ethical advice about stuff which may or may not exist. Even postmodernism, in its rejection of metaphysics, is really focused on the same question. Baudrillard neatly sums it up "Thought must refrain from instructing, or being instructed by, future reality, for in the game it will always fall into the trap of a system that holds the monopoly of reality" (The Intelligence of Evil).

It's a different matter if we're talking non-Western/Indo-European philosophies, since they tend not to take reality/unreality as the starting question; rather the question is 'how should the individual live?' (see Chakravarti Ram Prasad's excellent introductory 'Eastern Philosophy). The 'ethics' of Confuscusianism result from all that has been - from tradition in its very widest sense. If we're really looking for some philosophical grounding for morality, then perhaps it lies not with the metaphysicians of Western philosophy, but the 'historians' (cf. Foucault's archaeology notion) that the original author of the piece dismisses early in his paper.