Monday, August 23, 2010

My Pics from Interdisciplinary Studies Institute Conference

I had attended the Interdisciplinary Studies Institute conference in Pasadena in early August.  The conference is organized by Oskar Gruenwald and is an organization of Christian oriented philosophers.  I presented a paper on virtue ethics as applied to business.  Dr. Gruenwald suggested that I integrate the natural rights views of Henry B. Veatch in his book "Rational Man" and I have been doing him better by reviewing the ideas of Aquinas as described or elaborated by Robert P. George, Russell Hittinger and Leo Strauss as well as Veatch before submitting the article to Dr. Gruenwald's Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies.  About 25-30 people attended the conference but a significant number came for either the first or second day. It was a very exciting group that I found much more dynamic, alive and inspired than the business school conferences I have heretofore attended.  Kim Quy, a Vietnamese graduate student studying at the University of London took these pictures (except for the last one!).


Doug Plumb said...

This sounds really interesting.

I have read Natural Right and History (very clear and well written book) and because I wasn't familiar with Weber, I picked up the book on Basic Sociology by him and another one called "The Legacy of Max Weber" by Lachmann. I don't yet see how Weber thinks the way Strauss says he does in the second chapter of Natural Right & History. Do I have to get "Capitalism and the Protestant Ethic" (which Strauss dis-agrees with certain points) ?

I just do not quite understand how positivism and ethics are incompatible. I just found Ch 2 in Natural Right & History a little beyond my grasp because I'm not well versed in positivism. Any recommendations for this topic ?

Mitchell Langbert said...

I was just getting to NR&H. Strauss does not appeal to me because he is statist. I think you should read Weber because his work is more important and influential than Strauss's.

The idea of positivism is just that science is the chief source of knowledge and the emphasis on science and evidence. In philosophy the positivists focus on logic and logical analysis.

One key problem with positivism is its tendency to reject teleology. This has had harmful effects in economics, for instance. For example, the assumption that we need not understand people's purposes to analyze the economy leads to the belief that "stimulus" will create long term economic growth. If you consider that growth only comes from wise purposes (in other words, people are less likely to use money easily obtained wisely) then stimulus will not result in economic growth over the long term. The Austrian economists (von Mises and Hayek) emphasize purposeful action. Lowering interest rates means people with the wrong purposes obtain money. This does not result in meaningful growth. The Keynsians think that anything you do with newly created money will be fine. They are positivists.

As far as positivism and ethics they are incompatible under some ethical systems and approaches but not others. The emphasis on science and evidence rules out human purpose. Hence, Aristotelian ethics is probably incompatible with positivism (although there may be some philosopher who constructed a reconciliation, I do not know). Kant attempts to reconcile science and ethics by creating two separate worlds, the world of pure reason (science) and the world of practical reason (ethics). Not all ethics depends on teleology or purpose as does Aristotle (Sidgwick calls his view egoism, but I don't believe this). The Catholic ethical system of Aquinas is heavily Aristotelian and is also teleological. As well, most religions base ethics on a relationship with God which is also teleological. But not all ethics is necessarily teleological. The Stoics, who were the parents of Kant, held that ethics is its own reward. Hence only some interpretations of ethics are incompatible with positivism.

Doug Plumb said...

I just really like Strauss because he is a great writer - I don't agree with the Statist point of view, and I know what Strauss' ultimate viewpoints are. I like him because he really knows the Greeks, so does Bloom. I really have enjoyed NR&H- what I understand of it.

Strauss really differentiates historicism from positivism. I understand what you are saying wrt this, the definition just isn't clear cut in these books.

I'm reading Strauss on the Greeks- Platos Laws next (People completely mis-understand Plato IMO) And reading Durkheim, Marx and Weber in parallel.

Once I get done with the Greeks I'll go through Hume, Kant, Locke, Hobbs, etc. while continuing with sociology.

I believe in Natural Law, but I also believe in knowing my enemy. I really like Rothbards Ethics of Liberty, and John Stuart Mills' On Liberty. Deviations from Natiral Law cause the problems.

Mitch, please get Political Ponerology. This book is so important to give people scientific reasons to be more ethical - a healthier mind. This stuff that surrounds us is driving us insane. This is THE most important book.


Doug Plumb said...

What do you think of Social Credit ?

I guess that growth only comes from wise purpose and social credit would cause a society to drift into a permanent entropy and decay to nothing.