Values, Virtues, and the Language of Morality

In “Values or Virtues, Nietzsche or Aristotle?” Jay Gupta outlines the way that value discourse stifles normative intention and the ethical imagination. The aim of the paper is to “suggest that the language of values disguises a deeper, normatively richer language of virtue, and . . . point[s] to the importance of recovering that language in the modern age, as well as the difficulties that must attend such a recovery.” Before exploring the merits of the article, I wish to offer a few clarificatory notes. Recently, there has been a conspicuous number of thinkers that have advocated a return to virtue ethics. Perhaps the most notable among these is Elizabeth Anscombe, who, with the paper “Modern Moral Philosophy,” uncovers the supposed banality of modern moral philosophy and points to the ways in which moral discourse has retained elements of the Christian ethical tradition.

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World Disclosure and Normativity: The Social Imaginary as the Space of Argument

There has been an ongoing dispute between defenders of world disclosure (understood here in a loosely Heideggerian sense) and advocates of normative debate. I will take up a recent confrontation between Charles Taylor and Robert Brandom over this question as my point of departure for showing how world disclosure can expand the range of normative argument. I begin by distinguishing pre-reflective disclosure—the already interpreted, structured world in which we find ourselves—from reflective disclosure—the discrete intervention of a particular utterance or text. I discuss Taylor’s notion of social imaginaries as a way of thematizing our pre-reflective background and Talal Asad’s critique of Taylor to show how this background can be one space of argument. I then develop my own understanding of reflective disclosure, of which Taylor gives an inadequate account, developing my argument with help of literature, including a close analysis of Susan Glaspell short story “A Jury of Her Peers.” This story illustrates how world disclosure can make normative arguments without confining itself to Brandom’s or Habermas’s idea of the exchange of reasons.

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