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Fr. 752

January 11, 2017

This passage is notably dense in logical connections, numerous terms of which are drawn from the preceding paragraphs as well, such that new terms are introduced to serve alongside or in place of older terms. All the same, it remains possible to sum up the key steps here. Unreasonable procedures set up or draw on an insider/outsider distinction: their norms, reasons, claims, authorities, etc. posit in and of themselves a group to whom they are, by definition, not norms, etc.. Accordingly, reasonable procedures cannot set up or draw on such a distinction, and any procedure which seemingly operates in view of such a distinction must be able to explain it away as only an apparent distinction. In short, Kant and O’Neill seek a procedure which is all inside but no outside or, alternatively, which dissolves the inside/outside dichotomy.

Certainly, this follows straightforwardly from O’Neill’s talk of unrestricted and common reasons. A procedure free of such a dichotomy is unrestricted and common in the relevant sense. Yet it may be worth wondering whether the universal law formulation of the CI does not itself constitute a restriction and reintroduce at least a measure of insider/outsider distinction. O’Neill may contend with Kant that the CI models our moral thinking and provides via the various formulations of the CI a manner of bringing the CI procedure and everyday moral intuition closer to one another. This may not, however, entirely eliminate that doubt so long as a person perceives that formulation as being foreign in an important sense.

More important is the way in which the passage defines a sense of arbitrary and, by extension, objectivity. Arbitrary are thoughts and knowledge claims held on the basis of reasons which owe to contingent, environmental factors. Conversely, objective are thoughts and knowledge claims held on the basis of reasons which owe to factors independent of the contingent environment and freely chosen and freely affirmed. Note that this implies, not uncontroversially, that contingent, environmental factors freely chosen and affirmed cannot constitute objective thoughts or knowledge claims, a point which O’Neill brings out in the following passage:

In a world of differing beings, reasoning is not complete, or we may say (and Kant said) not completely public when it rests on appeals to properties or beliefs, attitudes and desires, norms and commitments which are simply arbitrary from some points of view. In some contexts incompletely reasoned, hence partly arbitrary, stretches of thought are enough to the purposes at hand – but not always. When we seek deep justification that reaches others who are not already like-minded, we can be satisfied only with claims about what to believe and what to do which (we responsibly judge) can be followed by those others. The only strategy that can count as a reason for all is that of rejecting all arbitrary assumptions however respectable, well-trusted or widely accepted they or their proponents may be (idem.).

We will attempt to break this final passage down further before drawing conclusions:

1.) Persons differ in terms of contingent, environmental factors and hold thoughts and knowledge claims in relation thereto through appeal to properties, beliefs, attitudes, desires, norms and commitments.
2.) Reasoning or advancing thoughts and knowledge claims through appeal to properties, beliefs, attitudes, desires, norms and commitments in relation to contingent, environmental factors is incomplete, incompletely public or incompletely reasoned.
3.) Between persons who differ in terms of contingent, environmental factors, thoughts and knowledge claims advanced through appeal to properties, beliefs, attitudes, desires, norms and commitments in relation to contingent, environmental factors are incompletely public and appear incompletely reasoned and arbitrary from their standpoint.
3a.) Conversely, between persons who resemble one another in terms of contingent, environmental factors, thoughts and knowledge claims advanced through appeal to properties, beliefs, attitudes, desires, norms and commitments in relation to contingent, environmental factors appear public, reasoned and nonarbitrary relative to their standpoint.
3b.) Certain stretches of reasoning take place between persons who resemble one another in terms of contingent, environmental factors, for which thoughts and knowledge claims advanced through appeal to properties, beliefs, attitudes, desires, norms and commitments in relation to contingent, environmental factors then suffice.
4.) Persons may seek deep justification, i.e. justification that holds for a full stretch of reasoning on a given matter.
4a.) Persons seeking deep justification may find themselves in uncoordinated situations where persons who differ in terms of contingent, environmental factors advance thoughts and knowledge claims.
4b.) Such persons cannot find deep justification via thoughts and knowledge claims advanced through appeal to properties, beliefs, attitudes, desires, norms and commitments in relation to contingent, environmental factors (from 3.).
5.) Persons differing in terms of contingent, environmental factors seek deep justification.
5a.) Deep justification cannot obtain through appeal to properties, beliefs, attitudes, desires, norms and commitments in relation to contingent, environmental factors.
5b.) Persons differing in terms of contingent, environmental factors and seeking deep justification (more weakly) do not appeal to or (more strongly) exclude appeal to properties, beliefs, attitudes, desires, norms and commitments in relation to contingent, environmental factors.
6.) Persons and thoughts and knowledge claims advanced through appeal to properties, beliefs, attitudes, desires, norms and commitments in relation to contingent, environmental factors may be respectable, well-trusted or widely accepted.
6a.) An uncoordinated situation seeking deep justification may bring such persons and thoughts and knowledge claims together.
6b.) An uncoordinated situation seeking deep justification discounts respectable, well-trusted or widely accepted persons and thoughts and knowledge claims advanced through appeal to properties, beliefs, attitudes, desires, norms and commitments in relation to contingent, environmental factors.

 

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