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Fr. 479

January 10, 2014

If, as Stout says of hatred or injustice in “Rorty on Religion and Politics”, “[e]xpressing it in one’s actions, including one’s speech, is also bad” (15), it is the motive underlying the expression that counts, whatever form that expressoin takes. In other words, the form of expression cannot pardon the person from having the motive, as the motive is itself the grounds for blame. This seems to find further confirmation in that, even in expressions that do not reach the outside world, such as thought, the person inwardly expressing that motive is, on one hand, capable of experiencing negative reactions (e.g.) to lending form to that motive and, on the other, liable to be held to account at least to some extent for that motive, should another person learn of it.

What assures the comparable “badness” of hateful or unjust deed, speech and thought? For, at least n the case of thought, the individual has not done anything (wrong), materially speaking. The same could perhaps be maintained of speech insofar as the speaker might qualify her speech with “I am merely saying that x“. In such cases, the question remains as to what makes these expressions of hatred objectionable. If an answer is perhaps to be found simply at the level of content or motive, a more complete, more compelling answer might be found in the way in which this content interacts with the world.

For, despite their differences in expression, we are tempted to hold each as morally inadmissible as any other. This inadmissibility must be for either the same reason in each case or for different reasons in the relevant cases. Yet we have reason to think that these are inadmissible for a single reason: their promotion of hatred. If these different expressions are not inadmissible for different reasons (i.e. expression of hatred in thought is not inadmissible for a fundamentally different reason than its expression in speech or deed), they are thus so for the same reason. This would seem to suggest structural similarity in the three cases of expression, and this similarity is to be found precisely in the way in which this content interacts with the world: each expression determines the world as it is experienced by the subject (and others) and so alters the subject’s effective reality all the while making a claim to determine the effective reality of others in a certain way. In short, each expression constitutes a doing unto itself that draws in and puts in play the world as it is experienced and perceived by others.

This ensures that, apart from their shared content in this case, deed, speech and thought share a greater, underlying similitude. These are parallel, homologous formations in terms of world-determination. Therefore, a unified theory of deed, speech and thought is required to make sense of and stick to our intuitive understanding of morally deficient motives. Indeed, our understanding of such seems to call for precisely this.

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