Re: Extract from paper: The Paradox of Rationality vs. Integration

From: Russell Blackford (
Date: Sat Aug 04 2001 - 21:09:55 MDT

Eric quoted/said

> > But doesn't the good ol' Enlightenment liberal framework deal with a lot
> > this stuff about social disagreement?
>Do you have a URL showing exactly where they deal with this problem that I
>pointed out in the paradox? I don't think I had read anything about this

I've been pondering this. Like Lee, I'm not sure that there really is a
paradox. However, the paradoxes of liberalism and democracy are well known,
and I think you're talking about something similar. A couple of days ago,
Reason and others were talking about a paradox of libertarianism, if I
understood correctly.

I actually think you're going to have to master the basics of political
philosophy. "Master the basics" sounds like an oxymoron, but I mean that
you'll have to get a thorough knowledge of the basic texts and ideas, before
moving on to real mastery of the field.

You may have done some of the work already - I don't want to patronise you
by assuming otherwise. However, there's a limit to what you'll have been
able to doso far at 18. If you don't know well the material I'm about to
discuss, I don't think there's a particular URL that can help you. You've
got to read some books and think hard about them. I'd say that you should
start with the following:

John Stuart Mill - _On Liberty_

Karl Popper - _The Open Society and its Enemies_

H.L.A. Hart - _Law, Liberty and Morality_ (I think this is the title, there
are various books with similar titles by Hart and his opponents)

John Rawls - _A Theory of Justice_

Robert Nozick - _Anarchy, State and Utopia_ (the last chapter should be very
interesting to you).

The citations and bibliographies in these will take you deep into the

However, the most recent of these books, Nozick's, was published a quarter
of a century ago. Okay, so you need some more recent reading. If you do some
library searches and internet searches for material *about* these thinkers
you'll quickly find other thinkers who are useful to you. Joseph Raz is one
you must watch out for.

There's also a vast field of imaginative utopian literature that you should
absorb. Some good books in recent decades that I think you should try are
Samuel R. Delany's _Triton_ and Greg Egan's _Distress_. Maybe also Kim
Stanley Robinson's _Mars_ trilogy. And see the critical writing *about*
these books in journals such as _Foundation_ or _The New York Review of
Science Fiction_, which will suggest other such books. Tom Moylan is a
writer who has written a lot about science fiction utopias, though he's far
too socialist for my liking!

All this will take you a year of solid work, I'm afraid, but it's a year
that will stand you in very good stead for the rest of your (hopefully, long
and free) life if you want to be able to discuss such issues seriously and
be taken seriously.

On bioethics, which is where a lot of this discussion started, have a good
look at Max Charlesworth's little book _Bioethics in a Liberal Society_. You
can follow his citations, once again, and it's a fairly recent book.

Most of this material will be available easily in good book shops anywhere
in the world. In any event, the University of Singapore is a major
world-class university. I'm sure you could do well by spending time in its
library with the above clues.

Other suggestions: have a look at the web sites for Max More, Greg Burch and
Daniel Ust. These contain interesting papers and reading suggestions.

Finally, if you find you have ideas in advance of all those you find this
way, that's great <g>! But the density and sophistication of your ideas will
certainly improve and you'll impress people more when you can talk
confidently about Nozick, Rawls, Popper, etc. ;)

Also, if you ever get a chance to study this stuff formally at university,
take it. No matter how much you know, the discipline of working with
teachers and fellow students always helps clarify and develop your thoughts.

Best wishes


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