Philip Pettit will give a public lecture on “The Infrastructure of Democracy” at 6pm on Friday 20th June, 2014, in the FitzGerald Debating Chamber, Student Centre, UCD. Ruairi Quinn TD, Minister for Education and Skills, will respond, followed by a reception.
This lecture is the Opening Keynote for the third annual UCD Garret FitzGerald School. The topic for discussion is Reforming The Republic’s Democratic Institutions, a debate which has recently gained momentum from the Constitutional Convention, debates on the role of the Senate, and possibilities of far-reaching changes in institutions ranging from the judiciary and courts to the educational system.
From the Irish Times Unthinkable column. Joe Humphreys talks to Philip Pettit, whose latest book His latest book, Just Freedom: A Moral Compass for a Complex World, explores the competing rights of individuals and group agents.
This is a series of three podcasts, each a lecture from the 2011 Annual Uehiro Lecture Series on the theme “Making Good: The Challenge of Robustly Demanding Values” given by Philip Pettit.
For Murdoch, the most crucial moral virtue was a kind of attentiveness to detail, a wise, trained capacity for vision, which could see what was really going on in a situation and respond accordingly. The sort of psychological insight and attentiveness to detail necessary for writing fiction was also, for Murdoch, what enables a person to live a morally good life. ‘It is obvious here,’ she wrote, ‘what is the role, for the artist or spectator, of exactness and good vision:
unsentimental, detached, unselfish, objective attention.
It is also clear that in moral situations a similar exactness is called for.’
For Murdoch, what so often keeps us from acting morally is not that we fail to follow the moral rules that tell us how to act; rather, it is that we misunderstand the situation before us.[…] As [Jonathan] Dancy once described it, to give one’s justifications for responding in a certain way
‘is just to lay out how one sees the situation…The persuasiveness here is the persuasiveness of narrative: an internal coherence in the account which compels assent. We succeed in our aim when our story sounds right.’
Murdoch the novelist would have approved.
From Godless yet good, a piece on secular ethics by Troy Jollimore in Aeon Magazine.
An examiner once said to me: ‘Sir Arthur Keith once remarked to me that the reason why the spleen drained into the portal system was of the greatest importance; but he never told me what that importance was, now can you tell me?’ I had to confess that I couldn’t see any anatomical or physiological significance in this fact. The examiner then went on to say: ‘Do you think there must be a significance, an explanation? As I see it there are two sorts of people: one man sees a bird sitting on a telegraph wire and says to himself: “Why is that bird sitting just there?”, the other man replies “Damn it all, the bird has to sit somewhere”
The reason why this story pleased Wittgenstein was that it made clear the distinction between scientific clarity and philosophical clarity.[…] Scientific explanations lead us on indefinitely from one inexplicable to another, so that the building grows and grows and grows, and we never find a real resting place. Philosophical clarity puts a full-stop to our enquiry and restlessness by showing that our quest is in one sense mistaken. “
From Maurice O’Connor Drury’s “The Danger Of Words” (1973).
Philip Pettit talks to Joe Gelonesi about freedom. He argues that freedom from government interference is not enough and that ancient ideas could hold clues to a freer future.
Alternatively read the ABC article which outlines many of the ideas from the recording.
You’ve got a big choice: do you think it should be everyone for themselves, a laissez faire, rip it up society? If this is what freedom means for you then you’re looking a free-for-all, with huge inequalities and lots of dependencies, a chaotic place.
For another view on Pettit, see Prof Maeve Cooke (UCD) talking to Irish Times Unthinkable about Freedom (Soundcloud audio here)
In this rigorous distillation of his political philosophy, Philip Pettit, author of the landmark work Republicanism, champions a simple standard for our most complex political judgments, offering a challenging ideal that nevertheless holds out a real prospect for social and democratic progress.
Whereas many thinkers define freedom as the absence of interference—we are left alone to do as we please—Pettit demands that in their basic life choices free persons should not even be subject to a power of interference on the part of others. This notion of freedom as non-domination offers a yardstick for gauging social and democratic progress and provides a simple, unifying standard for analyzing our most entangled political quandaries.
From the description of Just Freedom by Philip Pettit, published by W.W. Norton.
Human existence being an hallucination containing in itself the secondary hallucinations of day and night (the latter an insanitary condition of the atmosphere due to accretions of black air) it ill becomes any man of sense to be concerned at the illusory approach of the supreme hallucination known as death.
de Selby. An epigraph from the frontispiece of The Third Policeman
de Selby is included in Wikipedia’s Irish Philosopher category. We have no good evidence for his being Irish but due to the fact the vast majority of the evidence of his existence comes from an Irish source, I believe he deserves inclusion here.
Despite living a good twenty centuries later, de Selby has suffered the same fate as the preSocratics, with his original books being completely lost. In addition all original copies of the copious secondary literature on de Selby is no longer available. The vast majority of what remains is the material, both original and secondary, collected in a series of footnotes in a quasi-autobiographical work credited to a Flann O’Brien (1). Due to the patchwork nature of the references in this tertiary work it is impossible to trace the development of de Selby’s thought or get a sense of his system, if he had one. However we can piece together a small account of the theories of de Selby with a few of his epigrams and get a sense of the interest and controversy surrounding his work.(2)
Continue reading “de Selby, the philosopher preserved by Flann O’Brien”
In these and other particulars it can be seen that both the Aeneid and the Confessions approach a usual pattern and to one another. Aeneas in his flight from Troy has many shattering personal experiences, many a trial, and a visit to the underworld from which he emerges regenerated, with a clear vision of his destiny and the strength and confidence to fulfil it. Augustine, likewise, pictures himself as the Prodigal Son fleeing back to the Father (an important related motif in the Confessions), has equally shattering personal experiences and trials, ‘dies to his old self and puts on Christ in a mystic calling from which he emerges regenerated. There are differences of emphasis between the one work and the other – in particular the Confessions stress the ‘flight’ in terms of the Neo Platonic flight to the Fatherland and the way thither. But broadly speaking each is the story of Everyman in his journey through life.”
From “Virgil and Augustine: The Aeneid in the Confessions” by John Ó’Meara, in The Maynooth Review / Revieú Mhá Nuad , Vol. 13, (Dec., 1988), pp. 30-43 [available on JSTOR, limited free access]
The Irish philosopher John J. O’Meara on the parallels between Augustine’s Confessions and Virgil’s Aeneid. The Aeneid, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, recounts the tale of Aeneas, a Trojan who wandered the Mediterranean after the Fall of Troy. He eventually arrives in Italy where he became the ancestor of the Romans.
Continue reading “Augustine As Aeneas”
For more information on this topic see Philip Pettit’s article from 2012 on “A Question for Tomorrow: The Robust Demands of the Good” [pdf]. Extract:
Humphrey Lyttelton, the English jazz musician, was once asked where he thought jazz was going. He replied that if he knew where jazz was going, he would be there already. I feel the same about being asked about the questions of tomorrow in the moral and political philosophy. If I knew what they were,
I would be there already. Which raises an interesting thought. Perhaps the best indication of what I think that the questions are is where I am already. And, following that thought, there is a clear path to follow, however narcissistic it may seem. This is to describe a question that I think important — indeed a question that is something of a personal hobby-horse — despite the fact that it is not currently much discussed. Induction from past evidence suggests that it is unlikely to become a question of tomorrow. But I live, as we all must do, in hope.
In thinking over a long period about the various ways in which freedom may be conceptualized, I came to see that it is, as I came to put it, a robustly or modally demanding value.