File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2000/bhaskar.0009, message 4

Subject: BHA: Re: Re:James Daly's piece 
Date: Wed, 6 Sep 2000 13:28:56 +0100

From: "james.daly" <>
To: "colinm.harper" <>
Subject: Re: Bhaskar list
Date: 05 September 2000 22:45

Dear Colin   ---   thank you for your helpful discussion of the review which
I have now sent to Mervyn (no reply yet), also asking him for Roy's e-mail
address.  Meanwhile I was very gratified today to read the following reply
from Ruth Groff   to my posting of my " is /ought" section in the Bhaskar

Hi James (Jim?),

I don't have a lot to offer in terms of comments on your piece, but I at
least wanted to say that I found it interesting! I think that the central
point, that it is a teleological conception of the world that sustains moves
from is to ought, is a crucial one. MacIntyre, to whom you refer, does a
wonderful job of making this case in relation to recent and contemporary
debates. What's the nature of the larger work into which what you've posted
fits? A book? An article?

I did have a couple of questions, for what they're worth.

Is the "answer," as you put it, essentialism, precisely -- or is it
teleology? I don't think that these are exactly the same concepts. Could
one not view the world in essentialist, but nonetheless entirely
non-purposive (and by extension non-value generating) terms?

Also, I'm not 100% clear about the other point that you make, that it is
Hume's lack of a concept of natural necessity that underpins his is/ought
dichotomy, and that Bhaskar resolves this. [You say: "Arguments such as
those of Roy Bhaskar against Hume's (and hence Kant's) connected empiricism,
positivism and mechanism clear the ground for a theory of natural kinds
which by a natural necessity have rationally knowable norms and values."]

I guess I've always understood RB's discussion of Hume and causality to
amount to a charge that Hume cannot properly account for "efficient" cause,
to use the Aristotelian terminology. The notion of natural necessity that
RB himself reintroduces into the picture is thus, I've always thought, just
such an account -- one of efficient cause in terms of underlying generative
mechanisms. (Of course the philosophy of social science is trickier, as
there the underlying mechanisms are cast as *material* causes, with reasons,
rather than structures, being the *efficient* cause of actions.)

But I'm not sure how a proper account of *efficient* cause, such as RB
offers, in which a notion of natural necessity has been restored (in a
particular form, at least), itself gets us the resolution of Hume's
dichotomy. As I understand it, the answer that you, MacIntyre, Taylor and
others put forward requires instead a teleological conception of human
nature; the answer that RB puts forward, meanwhile, at least the original
one, relies instead on the idea that a commitment to truth entails an
imperative to transform those institutions that necessarily generate false
appearances. Both versions, though, are based on something other than a
notion of natural necessity per se. To put it differently, could one not
understand efficient cause/natural necessity as a matter of the powers of
real entities, as Bhaskar does (or did), and still not view the world in
purposive (and therefore value generating) terms?

I wish that I were more knowledgeable about moral philosophy, to be able to
give you more feed-back, but good luck with it.


I wrote, but have not sent, the following reply.  I am urgently seeking your
advice: is the section from "I read a paper..." to the end (a) too pushy --
usually references on the Bhaskar list are to third party publications and
(b) in maudlin bad taste.  Please edit it for me, including total deletion
if necessary.  -- James

Dear Ruth  -- -- --  Thank you for your interest, and for your searching
comments and questions.  My original training was in scholastic philosophy,
and I have since added phenomenology, Hegel and Marx, and RB .  I greatly
admire Martha Nussbaum's work.  I am trying to synthesise these elements,
and to interpret a dialectical critical realist, humanist and naturalist
Marx against the neoliberal global economy which I see as the result of the
Anglo-French enlightenment -- these days Anglo-American, not so much French
[or German; "Rhineland capitalism" (Will Hutton, *The State We're In*) seems
to me to have a Thomistic input and to be opposed to Anglo-Saxon corporate

The essentialism I have in mind is Aristotelian(see Scott Meikle), which
involves a thing
having *its own* telos, the fulfilment of its own natural potentiality.  It
is therefore not related to the *modern*
(Cartesian-dichotomous) concept of teleology (presupposing its opposite,
mechanism) as
external purpose (someone's -- e.g. God's -- will; the "argument from
design" kind of teleology which Marx opposed when he welcomed Darwin), but
entails the
objectivity of a natural good, making Aristotelian-style statements about
"the good for X" (a natural kind), "a good X", "an ideal X" etc. rationally
discoverable, and arguable even in the *human* case.  Aquinas's very
Aristotelian "good is to
be done and bad avoided" is not a Kantian imperative (*deontology*-- modern
polar opposite of Bentham's mechanistic utilitarian teleology) but, although
spiritual, is a naturalistic teleological
gerundive -- like "this plant is to be (needs to be, has a natural necessity
to be) watered twice weekly". (Cf.  Gestalt biology and psychology). In
other words values correspond to a thing's nature. Bentham sees humans as
hedonistic *by nature* but only because *all* nature is uniformly mechanical
(there is nothing emergent about human nature).  A traditional (e.g.
Thomist, but definitely not Hobbesian) natural law theory of *human
nature*sees it as not necessarily confined to self gratification, but open
to universal reason or mind. This seems to me the basis for Roy's moral
realism, ethical naturalism and
eudaimonism, as well as for his "man is essentially godlike" of *From East
to West*.

I agree with you that Roy's invaluable refutation of Hume, and demonstration
of the connection between empiricism and mechanism, is about efficient
causality; but as I said it clears the ground for an Aristotelian approach.
I also
agree with your analysis of explanatory critique; I always thought it was
too parsimonious, and that that was a concession to fact/value
dichotomising. I noted that at this year's conference Andrew raised that
point in a forum with Roy, who replied that more work must be done on values
(I think he called it utopian thinking, which may be another concession to
the theory of the non rationality of values).
(I hope to produce a book on these themes before the end of the year).



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