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Fr. 751

January 10, 2017

Next, O’Neill lays out in what way such requirements constrain practical reason and authority and sketch the principles of reason for Kant:

This limited discipline of rejecting ways of thinking and acting that cannot be followed by differing others is surprisingly constraining. If thoughts and knowledge claims are to be seen as reasoned, they must at least be followable in thought by others who hold differing views: they must be intelligible to those others. If principles of action are to be offered as reasons for action to others with differing ethical and religious commitments, they must at least be principles that could be adopted by those others and used to organise their action. Agents who accept the ‘supreme principle of practical reason’ accept that they should adopt basic principles which, they take it, can also be adopted by others who may differ: in short they must accept the principle expressed in the formula of universal law formulation of the CI [categorical imperative] (idem.).

As above, analysis in terms of premises and conclusions allows us to see more clearly the argument’s underlying threads:

1.) Rational agents want thoughts and knowledge claims to be seen as reasoned.
2.) Reasoned thoughts and knowledge claims must be followable in thought by others, i.e. intelligible to others holding different views.
3.) Rational agents want thoughts and knowledge claims to be followable in thought by others, i.e. intelligible to others holding different views.

4.) Rational agents want thoughts and knowledge claims to be followable in thought by others, i.e. intelligible to others holding different views.
5.) Thoughts and knowledge claims followable in thought by others, i.e. intelligible to others holding different views are thoughts and knowledge claims that could be adopted by others and used to organise their action.
6.) Rational agents want thoughts and knowledge claims that could be adopted by others and used to organise their action. [= the supreme principle of practical reason]

7.) Rational agents want thoughts and knowledge claims that could be adopted by others and used to organise their action. [= the supreme principle of practical reason]
8.) The principle expressed in the formula of universal law formulation of the CI [categorical imperative] allows for thoughts and knowledge claims that could be adopted by others and used to organise their action. [= the supreme principle of practical reason]
9.) Rational agents want the principle expressed in the formula of universal law formulation of the CI [categorical imperative].

Certainly, the third set of premises and conclusion could go differently, depending on which principle one puts forward as meeting the requirements of “followable” and its various contents. The categorical imperative merely represents Kant’s own answer thereto; O’Neill develops her own response in Towards justice and virtue. Yet the conceptual heavy lifting is done in the first two sets. Therein, the author develops on Kant’s behalf in what way reasoned views are ones which others can adopt and use to organise their action.

Given the synonymy between followable and intelligible, reasoned and adoptable, it comes as no surprise that a view either followable and intelligible, reasoned and adoptable or it is not. Again, a view does not or cannot become followable and intelligible, reasoned and adoptable. In other words, others must be able to adopt the view in question; O’Neill does not consider whether they could come to or could be brought to adopt the view in question. In short, there exists for Kant and O’Neill a gap between principles which are reasoned and unreasoned, capable of being understood immediately and capable of being understood with effort.

In the following passage, O’Neill develops the implications of such considerations and arrives at a view of the problem through the lens of the “outsider”:

These considerations suggest why we should view the CI as stating a fundamental requirement of practical reason. They have various corollaries. If the discipline of reason requires the rejection of principles which (we take it) not all others can understand or adopt, or view as providing reasons, then any reasonable procedures must be in principle followable by all without restriction. Reason cannot therefore be anchored either in the norms of communities (as communitarians suppose) or in the overlapping consensus of citizens as an ethically diverse polity (as Rawls supposes): it must be accessible in principle even to others with differing norms and differing citizenship: to ‘outsiders’. ‘Outsiders’ would legitimately view any claim that principles of reason are to be identified with the specific beliefs or norms of groups from which they are excluded as fetishising some arbitrary claim […] Ways of organising thinking and acting that appeal to such spurious ‘authorities’ – whether the edicts of Church and State, of public opinion or local powers, or the public culture of a particular democratic society – are not ways of reasoning: they are simply arbitrary for foreigners, dissidents, the excluded, and other outsiders. By contrast, where all such ‘authorities’ are put in question, nobody will be told that some claim that they cannot but view as arbitrary constitutes a reason for them to believe or act (p. 359).

In this case, the underlying claims do not allow themselves to be grouped in the form of premise-premise-conclusion, so we will content ourselves with laying out the various claims below in order to see what may be understood thereby.

1.) Above considerations (presumably 3.) “followable in thought by others” and 6.) “could be adopted by others and used to organise their action”) pick out the CI as a requirement of reason as well as corollaries.
2.) The requirements of practical reason define reasonable procedures.
3.) Reasonable procedures involve thoughts and knowledge claims for which the principles and reasons are followable and applicable by others.
3a.) Conversely, unreasonable procedures involve thoughts and knowledge claims for which the principles and reasons are restricted to some rather than all.
4.) Practical reason, as embodied in reasonable and unreasonable procedures, advances in view of certain norms.
5.) Reasonable procedures advance in view of norms the precise terms of which are followable and applicable by others.
5a.) Conversely, unreasonable procedures advance in view of norms the precise terms of which are followable and applicable by some rather than all.
6.) Communities and societies may engage in procedures of which the norms are followable and applicable only by members of a specific community.
6a.) Hence, communities and societies may not engage in reasonable procedures as per the requirements of reason.
7.) Reasonable procedures advance on terms followable and applicable by others with differing norms, citizenship or communal ties, i.e. “outsiders”.
7a.) Hence, reasonable procedures advance on terms which do not presuppose a thoroughgoing insider/outsider distinction.
8.) A procedure which restricts principles of reason as those norms, beliefs, etc. of a specific community or society treats others as “outsiders”.
9.) A procedure which define “outsiders” holds up an arbitrary claim as constitutive of practical reason.
9a.) Hence, reasonable procedures do not hold up arbitrary claims as constitutive of practical reasons (from 7a. and 9.).
10.) A procedure which appeals to an authority holding up arbitrary claims as constitutive of practical reason appeals to an unreasonable authority.
10a.) Conversely, a procedure which appeals to no such authority appeals to a reasonable authority.
11.) Arbitrary claims or authorities make up unreasonable procedures which do not provide reasons for others.

 

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