Paved with good intentions


0913 | [ Continuing my study of Susanna Rinard’s essay, Reasoning One’s Way out of Skepticism ]

The issue about “irrationality” continues to come up in Rinard’s paper. So far, each view has been rejected for being “irrational.” And it’s clear from her paper, that “irrationality” is typically seen as something to be “denounced.”

But I don’t understand what’s so wholly “rejectable” about being “irrational.” I mean, I can certainly see why one could and would want to reject being irrational some of the time. But I don’t see why one would necessarily reject being irrational all of the time.

Perhaps not to Aristotle, but I think that to Socrates/Plato at least, “irrationality” is actually one of the virtues — sophrosune!

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0937 | [ Continuing my study of Susanna Rinard’s essay, Reasoning One’s Way out of Skepticism ]

Ah, the secrets are slowly being unearthed.

Rinard writes:

“It is central to our concept of rationality that rationality constitutes an ideal to which one could coherently aspire, and by which one could be guided.” (p.30)

Interesting. I’m not sure what to say about it, since it could mean so many things. I can see how it can be true, but also false.

But just to say a little something of what I’m thinking…
♦ Some of the considerations that I’m holding onto in regards to this is that: I see that one could be guided by rationality, but one does not need to be. And I don’t see how it’s necessarily and always better to be guided by rationality than by irrationality. Again, I see how it could be, but I don’t see how it is necessarily so.
♦ Another consideration that I’m holding onto is that: what it means to “guide” — since, being a reliable road to Larissa is still quite different from being Larissa itself. I don’t see rationality as being capable of being “guiding” in the sense of being Larissa itself; I only see it functioning as being a reliable road to Larissa.
♦ Finally, I think that rationality could be an “ideal” for some people (eg, road builders) — but, I don’t see how and why it is and/or should be an “ideal” for everyone.

And so, I can see how this statement could be true. But I don’t think that it’s necessarily true. In some ways, it is even false.

Rinard also writes:

“But if doxastic dilemmas were possible, rationality could not play this role in those cases. We cannot be guided by the voice of rationality if rationality tells us to neither believe, nor disbelieve, nor suspend judgment on P. We could not coherently aspire to conform to the requirements of rationality if there were doxastic dilemmas. Since I regard its ability to play this guidance-giving role as constitutive of rationality, I conclude that there are no doxastic dilemmas.” (p.30)

This statement begins by relying on the previous assertion made about rationality being “an ideal.” While it may be true for some people, it isn’t necessarily and always true for all people. Some people don’t need a prior account to get to true belief. They just do. And so, I think that the road to Larissa is formed after Larissa is already known/discovered. It’s not enough simply to have a reliable road. A very reliable road can lead to hell. In principle, it isn’t the reliability of the road that matters so much to me; it matters much more to me where the road is intended to take me. The reliability of the road only becomes important after the destination is accepted. And as far as the acceptance of the destination goes, I think that there might actually be a “doxastic dilemma” — at least initially, when one is still deciding where to go.

I sent an email to Susanna Rinard with some of the questions and issues that came up for me. Perhaps she will respond with some answers or some thoughtful perspectives.

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1315 | Barbara Herman had suggested that I read a 2008 essay by Seanna Shiffrin (Promising, Intimate Relationships, and Conventionalism) in order to get a better grasp of the difference between “promises” and “oaths.”

The relevant part which Prof. Herman mentioned, seems to be on page 491 where Shiffrin writes:

“…the often-posited, but also questionable, requirement of acceptance of a promise by the promisee. Promisees have a clear interest in being able to avoid the sometimes charged relation of moral debtor to the promisor. But protecting this interest entails only that the potential promisee have a right (and a low-cost opportunity) to reject the promise or to waive performance.”

What does this mean? Does Shiffrin mean that sometimes people don’t want to be bothered by someone who wants to keep certain promises to them? Or perhaps she means that sometimes people don’t want to see others suffer or come to harm on account of attempting to keep certain promises to them?

Well, for one thing, I tend to think that “promises” are things made voluntarily — whether it is made to one’s self or to a friend. And when promises are made between two friends, and all promises are always made voluntarily, then I don’t see why one would be at the same time “rejecting” and consenting at the same time. That doesn’t seem to make any sense at all to say that one might “reject” a promise. One might reject the offer of a promise, but one cannot both reject and accept at the same time — and an actual promise is an accepted offer.

As for performance, I see how that could be waived. But it is for the reasons that I have given to Barbara Herman in an email on this topic:

“…our relationships with one another can sometimes give us good reason to not keep a promise…. in order to have relations with one another, it seems that we must preserve one another’s lives, and also our own lives. And I would think that we do want to have relations with one another because this is itself pleasant and meaningful for us.” (2017, July 15)

And, though it’s clear to me that occasionally we do have good reasons to break promises, we also have a natural desire and a prima facie reason to keep the promises that we make. But a natural desire and prima facie reason aren’t “duties” or “obligations” to keep promises. That comes later, as a counterargument to the good reasons for breaking promises.

Anyways, this is my view.

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1356 | [Continuing my study of Seanna Shiffrin’s essay, Promising, Intimate Relationships, and Conventionalism –]

What Shiffrin notes here is intuitive for me, and I agree with it:

“Perhaps the promisee belief requirement traces back to an old notion that promises involve a meeting of the minds between autonomous agents, a way that independent parties may join together.” (p.493)

But this is shortly followed by:

“That motivation may lie beyond another feature of some accounts, including one recently advanced by Daniel Markovits…namely, the idea that promising involves the creation and pursuit of shared ends.” (p.493)

I disagree with this latter idea. I only agree with the former thing, because the former thing is simple and so it is more genuine. Being simple, it is focused on the intrinsic pleasure of sharing a world together. On the other hand, the latter thing is more complex, and implies goals and projects within an existing world.

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2234 | [Continuing my study of Seanna Shiffrin’s essay, Promising, Intimate Relationships, and Conventionalism –]

Shiffrin writes:

“The autonomy of moral agents must be capable of being exercised within and through respectful relations with others…An autonomous life requires the opportunity to engage in meaningful, moral relations with others. Meaningful, moral relations depend on agents having the ability to make binding promises.” (p.502)

I agree with the conclusion. But I don’t understand how “autonomy” enters into this picture, and I also don’t understand why Shiffrin thinks that my autonomy “requires” a capability to have “respectful relations” with others. It could. But I don’t see why it must. The “must” here seems arbitrary to me.

The only way that what Shiffrin says makes sense is if I’m already presupposing that everyone should be autonomous (and it’s not clear to me that I am in the position to think that everyone should), rather than just me. Also, I don’t see what “everyone’s” autonomy has to do with my autonomy — unless, she means this in a Hobbesian sense in terms of mutual benefits. But even if everyone’s autonomy does have to do with my own, I don’t see how I could manage other people’s internal states! It doesn’t make sense to me to think this way. (Not to mention that it’s paternalistic in a bad, controlling sort of way.)

And presumably, Shiffrin also presupposes everyone to be “equal.” But there’s nothing to prove that this is necessarily the case either.

I can see now that I might have reason to distrust Shiffrin’s intuitions and her argumentation style as well. I can tell that she presupposes a lot of things that I don’t. Obviously, there’s a good likelihood that our reasoning/reasons are going to be different — even if our conclusions may arrive at the same place somehow. And reasons can make a difference…