Recent links of note:
“Philosophy vs ethics”
Max Hayward, The Times Literary Supplement
When Aristotle claimed in his Nicomachean Ethics that “practice precedes belief,” he inverted the usual order of Greek moral philosophy, which had until then treated ethics as the moral actions that proceed from our ideals. Although many philosophers since Aristotle’s time have drifted back toward abstraction (with famously disastrous effects), the West at least continues to live predominantly within the philosophical “House that Aristotle Built,” as is demonstrated by the three fully modern and plainly Aristotelian books on ethics that Max Hayward recently reviewed for The Times Literary Supplement. The purpose of each book differs clearly from the next; James Griffin wants us to bring ethical ideals within the reach of the common man, Richard Joyce argues that our biology is the fount of morality, and Webb Keane suggests that the layers of culture we develop on top of our behavior govern our conduct. And yet all three approaches are united by Aristotle’s neat empirical premise: we don’t discover our ideals without first going out and living.
“America’s Village Atheists”
Crawford Gribben, The American Interest
For all except the rarest and most pitiable political animals among us, the ongoing debate over religious liberty in America is excruciating to keep up with, no matter which side of the argument one prefers. The problem is not so much the harsh rhetoric being exchanged, which is, of course, a staple of all political conversation. Rather, the particular difficulty of enduring conversations about cake-maker’s rights comes from the rhetoric of victimhood being employed by both the believers being pushed and the progressives doing the pushing. Writing in The American Interest, the theology historian Crawford Gribben points out that this similarity between religious and atheist arguments has its roots in the nineteenth century, when, after the breakdown of objective sources of public belief, Christians and non-believers alike learned to couch their positions on public life within the language of individual experience. The trend, Gribben suggests, has often enabled a compromise in which both camps leave one another to inhabit their respective worldviews. And yet, as long as our beliefs are secured only by our rights against each other, the possibility of what Gribben calls a “zero-sum public square” will always remain, and another new clash will never be too far away.
From our pages:
“William Merritt Chase at the Museum of Fine Arts”
On an exhibition of the American painter in Boston.