A5prompt - Paul Blomeyer Writing 140: 64320 & 64475 Fall...

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Paul Blomeyer Fall 2010 SI Affiliation: PHIL 140 Fall 2010 Assignment 5 Making Sense of Social Issues When the world is not as it should be, we begin to ask why. . . . The urge to unite is and ought stands behind every creative endeavor. – Susan Neiman, Evil in Modern Thought Premise / Context: Children typically go through a period during which they ask “Why?” about nearly everything they notice in the world about them, only to greet their parents’ explanations with renewed inquiry: “But why is that?” Although this phase of persistent questioning may easily be dismissed as just another stage of childhood, the American philosopher Susan Neiman finds in the phenomenon something more significant: evidence of an inherent human need to make sense of the world, a need that itself is reflected in an important philosophical concept, that of “sufficient reason”: The principle of sufficient reason expresses the belief that we can find a reason for everything the world presents. It is not an idea that we derive from the world, but one that we bring to it. Kant called it a regulative principle—not a childish wish, but a drive essential to reason itself. Children display it more openly than adults because they have been less often disappointed. They will continue to ask questions even after hearing the impatient answer—Because that’s the way the world is. Most children remain adamant. But why is the world like that, exactly? . . . In the child’s refusal to accept a world that makes no sense lies all the hope that ever makes us start anew. (320) At the core of this desire to insist that the world make sense, we encounter the simple but crucial distinction between is and ought: presented with the world as it is, we sometimes develop an unaccountable yet strong conviction that the world ought somehow to be far different. When we encounter a significant gap between is and ought we are impelled to seek some framework or perspective, founded upon sufficient reason, that will not only help us understand why the world is as it is but that will also suggest how the distance between is and ought might, in a more reasonable world, be diminished. In terms of your SI lecture and discussion, the is/ought distinction is crucial in defining what constitutes an issue: an issue comes into being when people notice a divergence between what something is and what they believe it ought to be, with the issue growing more complex as participants offer different explanations as to what the issue involves and what should be done about it. The is/ought distinction also has strong connections with the principles of rhetoric, critical reasoning, and ethical discourse advanced in Writing 140. Rhetoric is committed to issues of uncertainty, issues likely to arise whenever a breach opens between is and ought. The fundamental question posed by critical reasoning – “What is to be done?” – is simply another way of asking “What ought we to do?”
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This note was uploaded on 02/17/2011 for the course WRIT 140 taught by Professor Alvandi during the Fall '07 term at USC.

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A5prompt - Paul Blomeyer Writing 140: 64320 & 64475 Fall...

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