Saturday, August 13, 2011

The boat sails on

The stand-alone pages (click under the Conservative tendency banner) are designed to sketch out in a concise way the political and ethical framework within which I am operating. But, since what I have written only imperfectly reflects my ideas, and also because my ideas are slowly evolving, there is a constant need to revise my notes.

I am reminded of Otto Neurath's famous image which compares our body of knowledge to a boat that must be repaired at sea: "We are like sailors who must rebuild their ship on the open sea, without ever being able to dismantle it in dry dock and reconstruct it from the best materials."

Today I put up a revised version of 'Conservatism without religion' under the new title, 'Modern conservatism'.

Sometimes I am tempted to go in a more scholarly direction. For example, I have been reading up on the philosophy of law. But, in some ways, such areas (the philosophy of mathematics is another that comes to mind) can be problematic. They appear rigorous and scholarly, but they lack a mechanism to create the convergence of views which characterizes scientific disciplines.

Debates between, say, legal positivists and supporters of natural law-based approaches - or indeed between legal positivists and legal positivists! - roll on for decades without any real resolution. Such debates produce divergence rather than convergence of opinion - growing lists of elaborate and more or less incompatible theories.

I have tried to avoid getting entangled in this sort of thing, stating my views as clearly and as plainly as I can. Not everyone will agree with what I say. There are facts and there are values, and values are necessarily subjective to some degree.

That's just how things are, and I am inclined to think that life would be a lot simpler and a lot more pleasant if that subjective element were more universally recognized and accepted.