Philosophy, Ethics and Dialogue
AbstractHere, I examine the nature of ethical dialogue from the point of view of its foundations in the critique of the dominant, disinterested conception of ethics, relating this to my 20 year experience corresponding with students taking courses with Pathways to Philosophy, including a prisoner on Death Row, Texas, USA. Ethical dialogue, where we seek the best outcome by our collective lights, is contrasted with activity in the business arena, where traders are assumed to be acting from purely self-interested motives. The role of philosophy as an activity of seeking, in the words of the metaphysician F.H. Bradley, ‘bad reasons for what we believe on instinct’ is examined from the point of view of our practical interest in learning how to engage in ethical dialogue, as well as the need to defend the theory of ethical dialogue against rival views. From the standpoint of theory, the ethics of dialogue is the conclusion of a three-part dialectical argument involving the refutation of solipsism and the subsequent refutation of anti-solipsism. Looking at ethical dialogue from the standpoint of praxis, it appears that learning ethical dialogue is more like learning to dance than learning an intellectual game like chess. It can’t be taught from a book. One learns ethical dialogue by engaging in ethical dialogue. One consequence of this radical conception of ethics is a new version of the problem of akrasia. You have the knowledge and the will, but fail ethically because of your practical inability to engage the other person in ethical dialogue.
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