The Discomfort in Frankfurt
“The standards […] of practical reason are grounded, so far as I can see, only in ourselves. More particularly, they are grounded only in what we cannot help caring about and cannot help considering important.” Harry Frankfurt in ‘Getting it right’, p. 190 Don’t try to prove a Nazi wrong. (Discomfort of normative subjectivism) The quote reported above makes some people very uncomfortable1. These people believe that ‘doing the right thing’ is somehow grounded in something outside of us. Whether it is God, human rights or the undeniable law of reason, they claim something outside of us has to determine what is good. If not, would we not be able to justify anything? Are we then permitted to simply do whatever? Of course, reality is indifferent to our comfort with it. If it were up to me, I would not choose to live on a planet which could at any moment be destroyed by an asteroid; I would choose not to have to die; I would choose to live in a world where people do not enslave one another. This would be a much more comfortable world, yet reality does not seem to care. When it comes to uncomfortable conclusions of astronomy, - an extinction-sized asteroid could at any point head in our direction - we accept it. When it comes to conclusions of medicine, - anyone can die of a stroke at any time - we accept it. Sure, we try to prevent these things; in fact practitioners and scientists do so every day. Still, we accept it. Upon learning about these things, we include them in our system of beliefs. No strings attached. But for some reason, when it comes to human actions, such as modern-day slavery, we do something odd. We acknowledge that this phenomenon exists, but in addition we claim that the people who inflict these crimes are wrong and mistaken. We include an additional existence into our belief system: the existence of objective reasons to act in a certain way.
|Series||Erasmus Student Journal of Philosophy (ESJP)|
|Journal||Erasmus Student Journal of Philosophy|
Schoenmakers, K. (2019). The Discomfort in Frankfurt. Erasmus Student Journal of Philosophy, 16, 48–58. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/124791