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So I finally got around to reading that profile of Derek Parfit in the New Yorker

September 25, 2011

He attended a lecture by a Continental philosopher that addressed some important subject such as suicide or the meaning of life, but he couldn’t understand any of it. He went to hear an analytic philosopher who spoke on a trivial topic but was quite lucid. He wondered whether it was more likely that Continental philosophers would become more lucid or analytic philosophers less trivial. He decided that the second was more likely, and returned to Oxford. – How to be Good

How overdetermined is the above observation? That is, to put it more provocatively: given that we are creatures of emotion, given that our thinking is intrinsically analogical, are discussions of what really matters to us not fated to lack lucidity? Is the analytic method, applied to our moral feelings, not destined to result in trivialities?

Parfit would accuse me of stealth-emotivism, and the Thomists would accuse me of implicitly embracing the fact/value distinction. Guilty! Guilty! And yet, outside of literature, the pattern tends to hold. Curious.


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