Shared Cultural Values?

Just a quickie.

This is a quote from Alasdair MacIntyre’s 1977 Essay “Epistemological Crises, Dramatic Narrative, and the Philosophy of Science”
(Offline PDF copy, original copyright acknowledged.)

“Consider what it is to share a culture. It is to share schemata which are at one and the same time constitutive of and normative for intelligible action by myself and are also means for my interpretations of the actions of others. My ability to understand what you are doing and my ability to act intelligibly (both to myself and to others) are one and the same ability. It is true that I cannot master these schemata without also acquiring the means to deceive, to make more or less elaborate jokes, to exercise irony and utilize ambiguity, but it is also, and even more importantly, true that my ability to conduct any successful transactions depends on my presenting myself to most people most of the time in unambiguous, unironical, undeceiving, intelligible ways.”

So much in this one paragraph.

“Most people most of the time” – Notice!

Several difficult discussions about the idea of any universal human rights at any level of abstraction, given humanity globally is “multi-cultural” between nations and is even so within any one nation with any significant history(*). And that agreeing mutually shared rights can’t fail to imply some shared values that are being maintained by such rights. Sure each “culture” has a different set of values and rights in specific details and their practical traditions, but if we are to have any progressive dialogue between cultures, there have to be some level of shared values across our “good fences”? The UN has such a universal declaration and sure there are imperfections and differences in interpretation between cultures which can always be revised by negotiation. But can there ever be meaningful progress without some level of agreement over some level of rights and values? Some normative schemata within and between cultures. Our interactions would be unintelligible and doomed to misunderstanding and failure without these, as MacIntyre says.

And, very much like my evolutionary view of progressive dialogue, we have to mostly behave according to such schemata, if only to learn how much of such schemata we do share, as well as make any intelligible progress. Freedom says such rules are there to be broken, playfully and creatively, but the fidelity and fecundity of evolution says we can’t all break the rules all of the time – that’s entertainment and/or chaos.

Prompted by conversation about Jonathan Rowson’s talk here.

Some issues, but lots of potential agreement with Jonathan’s position, about the meta-crisis around our existential poly-crises. A crisis of meaning, an epistemological crisis as MacIntyre put it in 1977.


Post Notes:

(*) That’s being multi-cultural notice, not a recommendation for multiculturalism. The latter is a different, artificial, unhealthy option. If you don’t know the difference (in the UK), consult the work of Kenan Malik.

And previously here on Psybertron:


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