However what could be said is that in this case the

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Unformatted text preview: as worthy of sacrifice, or simply that the image made him feel more passionately about his country. This would be, it seems, the conception that Burke himself held. Macintyre notes that in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Sublime and Beautiful, “Burke argued that it is not intelectual content of language, CEU eTD Collection but the psychological use of words that produce responses in action” 82. Indeed, there, Burke says: “The truth is all verbal description, merely as naked description, though never so exact. Conveys so poor and insuficient an idea of the thing described, that it could scarcely have the smallest effect, that mark a strong and lively feeling in himself. Then by the contagion of our passions, we catch a fire already kindled in another, which probably might never have been struck out by the object described. (...) If the affection be well conveyed, it 81 Roger Scruton gives an account of the state’s systematic destruction of the country life and also points to further reading on the subject in England: An Elegy (London: Chatto&Windus, 2000) 82 Poetry, 164 47 will work its effect without any clear idea; often without any idea at all of the thing which has originally given rise to it”83 In this case, we could not say that the motive is based on false beliefs, for indeed it is not on any rational belief at all, but on passion. However, what could be said is that in this case the man motivated to join the army by seeing the poster is behaving irrationally. As Christine M. Korsgaard notes in her critique of Bernard Williams, “[r]ationality is a condition that human beings are capable of, but it is not a condition that we are always in.”84 Even when we rationaly understand that something is not an apropriate means to an end we are pursuing – for instance that the modern liberal state in no way furthers the national-cultural cause, and that therefore cannot help us attain a meaningful life – we may still be motivated to pursue these “false” means for non rational reasons. We may be rational, but we are not perfectly rational, and as Korsgaard rightly notes, even when we are aware of a causal relationship (or lack there of) between a means and our desired end we may fail to be motivated by it to pursue (or not pursue) this means. Korsgaard further notes that even a very narrow version of internalism, such as Hume’s, that confines all rationality to means/end reasoning, would have to admitt the existence kind of this kind of irrationallity, and Williams’ somewhat broader conception would certainly have to do so. Not CEU eTD Collection taking the means to our self-proffessed ends, if we are aware of the causal relationship between the two, can be nothing else but irrational. Images can be sugestible, and motivate us on an emotional level, but in this case such motivation could hardly be considered as providing us with a valid reason to act. Picture of England as a green and pleasent land of small villages and farms can move someone on a very deep archetypical level and cause him to value the modern British state enough...
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This note was uploaded on 02/06/2013 for the course ENGLISH LI 21 taught by Professor Han during the Fall '13 term at Tsinghua University.

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