Sunday, August 25, 2002

Just getting started. A short essay soon. Rhythm: an essay approximately every two weeks. For now, this:

There is an astonishing fact. There is no systematically recorded great American moral philosophy. There is no great American moral philosopher. England has Locke, Hume, even Butler and Smith. Germany has Kant. Ancient Greece had Aristotle. Ancient China had Mencius. America: The Founding Fathers? Rawls and Nozick? The latter pair are of passing interest: an unsound argument for left-liberalism, and a predictable statement of libertarianism. Even Butler will outlive them. The Founding Fathers are lacking not in truth or depth but in systematicity of philosophical justification. They produced works of profound political insight and a great political system, but they gave us little in the way of thorough and systematic treatment of crucial philosophical problems or rigorous philosophical justification. "We hold these truths to be self evident" is a phrase which makes my point. Strokes of genius follow it, but it announces that it will disappoint demands for justification or worries over conflicts between intuitions about what follows from the self-evident truths.

Yet, American moral and political values perhaps represent the pinnacle of human moral history. These values cause more freedom, good lives, and justice than any other set of values in history. How odd that we've no recorded moral philosophy, and how regrettable, given the challenges to American values by many foreigners and even many Americans. There are many thinkers attempting to change this regrettable fact. Philosoblog joins the effort.