From: D Hugh-Jones <dash2@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 22 May 1996 22:56:25 +0100 (BST)
On Thu, 23 May 1996 Hugh.Roberts@xxxxxxxxx wrote:
> I'm a bit perturbed by the absolutism of this view of moral responsibility.
> I feel like I'm reading a tract by one of the Enlightenment radicals -
> William Godwin, perhaps. Isn't this the same view of the individual's
> relationship to society which is going to produce the Panopticon? An ethical
> universalism is part and parcel of the totalitarianism of knowledge/power
> which demands absolute visibility: that which is hidden is that which
> escapes from control. Godwin, indeed, argues from our universal moral
> responsibility to a utopian future society regulated by neighbourly
> Of course, I share Colin's impulse not to let people hide behind a
> "cultural/nationalist/statist card" to justify political inactivity, but I
> think his vision of absolute and universal ethical responsibility is not
> only undesirable, but unworkable. If I am "responsible" for everything that
> happens which I could, conceivably, have prevented, then the concept of
> "responsibility" becomes so empty that I need no longer feel "responsible"
> for anything. Every murder that will happen in the world next week is my
> "responsibility", according to Colin's system, because I could, conceivably,
> sell everything I own and buy a ticket to wherever I think a murder might be
> likely to take place and have a go at trying to stop it. If I fail to do
> that - and, of course, in 99.99% of cases I must fail - I am, according to
> this theory, *just* as responsible as Colin would be if he stood by while
> his wife murdered their only child, knowing full well that he was capable of
> stopping her: I have failed to do everything within my power to stop a
> murder that is just as much my responsibility to stop as any other. (You can
> instantly see where the Panopticon comes in here, can't you? If only I could
> *know* everything that was going on in the world then I might be able to
> live up to this universal ethical burden . . .).
> I doubt it is wise to define "living well" in such a way that nobody could
> possibly achieve it, Colin. I think the end product will probably be apathy
> rather than a global commitment to change.
> Hugh Roberts
Phew, here comes the cavalry, just when I thought F was disappearing
irrevocably from view.
Dave Hugh-Jones So what's it all about Alfie? Have you ever seen the
dash2@xxxxxxxxx moon? It's a little whitish bluish thing that floats
about the sky. It's very very round and "they" say
that man invented the wheel.
Homeless person, 1995