Well, class was OK. I managed to not talk. There were times when I wanted to, but I didn't.
We spoke about this article. The basic argument the authors are trying to put forth is that moral judgments are and ought to be guided by a 'plurality of emotion-based rules'. That is, the authors think that when we make a moral judgement: a), we apply a varied set of 'moral rules' which are essentially based on emotion, and; b), that this is good.
I pretty much agree with a) – I think this is largely because, in essence, their argument is not based on rationalism (that the best and only way to determine good action is to think about it in the right way), is sufficiently broad and nonspecific such that they are not bogged down by easily-refuted particulars and allows for my pet assumptions and biases. As for b), I don't really mind.
Unfortunately, again, their argument was not particularly well-made, in a rhetorical or 'theoretical' sense. They make several un-based claims and seem to largely assert the truth of their argument, rather than argue for it.
In class, amidst dissection and discussion of the article, I came up with a self-serving thought about how we philosophers (or philosophy students) operate in response to such articles.
To a certain degree, agreeing with the general thrust of this article allowed me to overlook the faults related to the fact that, in several parts, the authors just assert their claims. Additionally, I actually like that they just say 'this is how it is', without feeling the need to justify it on somebody else's terms. I think the fact that I basically agree with them helps me feel ok about this, however – if they were basing their argument on assertions that I disagreed with, I might not be so relaxed about it.
Regardless, the fact that they have assumptions, assertions and predispositions to a certain way of thinking is not unique to them – it relates to every piece of philosophical writing. What the authors of this article do differently is make their assertions very clearly, obviously and without apology. As such, if you agree with their assertions, there is no real problem with their argument – there is nothing inherently wrong with their logic, in a broad sense. That is, while I may not agree with their specific conclusions or particular thoughts on some matter, I generally don't feel too offended by the structure of their argument.
What I found interesting, then, was that most of the criticism discussed in class seemed to arise from disagreement with the authors' assertions and assumptions. Criticisms along the lines of, 'This article doesn't acknowledge or sufficiently argue against my theory', or, 'They just claim X to be true when I believe Y'.
Upon hearing these types of criticisms, I can see where the criticiser is coming from, but I don't really have the same problem – I would probably flesh out the article's premises to different conclusions, but I don't see 'flaws' in these authors' argument as a result of their neglecting to relate to me. To be a whingey boy for a change, this is how I feel about most other writings in philosophy – that, generally, people writing philosophy essays are not addressing my concerns; that they are making me read lengthy articles based on assumptions and assertions that I disagree with. YET, and here's where the real whinging begins, it doesn't seem like it's valid for me to criticise on that basis. From my poor, persecuted point of view, it seems that when I try to argue with the foundations of which an argument is built, I am being distracted, uncharitable and not discussing the real issue, yet when others do it to things that I agree with, it's ok.
How's that for cry-babying?
To change topic while still whinging, I realised that what makes me feel so uncomfortable in this class is that I feel like the teacher treats me like an idiot. The cause for my feeling like this arises from her politely trying to 'reign me in', addressing me as if I need gentle handling – as if I am obviously unbalanced (perhaps) and perhaps a bit retarded. For example, today she began the class by trying to survey and write down all the points of discussion that the class thought we should talk about. Her reason for doing this was because the discussion has been getting bogged down in a few people's issues and not everyone has been getting an equal go (my parahrase). As I understand it, I am the 'few people' – in the last two weeks, I have been antagonistic, talked a lot and tried to discuss what I wanted to discuss. I know this and I assume everyone else in the class does too. Or I may be narcissistic and self-absorbed.
As an alternative way of dealing with the problem (me), I think she could have, a), just tried a different tactic to control the discussion without giving a reason that singles me out as being difficult, or b), diffused the awkwardness by bringing it to the surface and making a joke out of it. Instead, what I heard was
"Hi everyone. I'm going to do this differently today so we can keep Jacob under control. Good plan? Good. Yay for us. Jacob is an idiot."
I don't know that this was actually what she was saying, but it made me feel bad. I think too that making a joke of it, given the situation, would probably not have worked either – I don't know that she's funny enough to make it work.
Additionally, it was all very unnecessary as I had already vowed to not talk this week. As you know.
While I can't help but feel on-edge in class, I don't think my teacher is bad, out to get me or nasty. Essentially, what makes me awkward is her politeness. Instead of being 'rude' and telling me to shut up, making an awkward comment or something along those lines – something straightforward which at least gives me something to react to and makes the situation 'controlled' or 'owned' – she seems to be trying to get the point across politely in an attempt to minimise the negative effect on me. While this may stem from good intentions, it makes me feel as if she thinks I am a child that can't be spoken to or reasoned with directly and feels false. This then makes me feel disrespected, mistrustful and like I'm being treated as if I'm a dummy.
That aside, me not talking seemed to work out better for everyone today.
As I final point, I would like also to share my bout of self-doubt, experienced during the same class. To describe it briefly, I felt like I might actually be a bit of a dummy. I think that what may have happened in the previous classes was that I identified with the articles and ideas being discussed and felt personally attacked when 'my ideas' were so freely cast aside. As I may have mentioned in an earlier post (that was a joke, I definitely mentioned it. For about 3000 words), this brought up all sorts of frustration with constantly being on the outside and having my ideas as not valid for 'real discussions' – finally it seemed that my ideas where going to be 'valid' in a philosophy class and everyone would consider them and agree with me and carry me on their shoulders and... oh, no-one likes it.
Therefore, I'm a bit of a dummy for feeling personally attacked.
Maybe. But probably not.
That's all for now. Thanks for reading.