LAW214-LAWS805_TBa_45-86.pdf

Lingering infection of the semantic sting concept and

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lingering infection of the semantic sting. Concept and Conception Can the philosopher be less negative and more helpful? Can he provide something in the spirit of what his clients want: an account of courtesy more conceptual and less substantive than the theories they already have and use? Perhaps. It is not unlikely that the ordinary debates about courtesy in the imaginary community will have the following treelike struc - ture. People by and large agree about the most general and abstract propositions about courtesy, which form the trunk of the tree, but they disagree about more concrete refine- ments or subinterpretations of these abstract propositions, about the branches of the tree. For example, at a certain stage in the development of the practice, everyone agrees that courtesy, described most abstractly, is a matter of re - spect. But there is a major division about the correct inter - pretation of the idea of respect. One party thinks respect, properly understood, should be shown to people of a certain rank or group more or less automatically, while the other thinks respect must be deserved person by person. The first of these parties subdivides further about which ranks or groups are entitled to respect; the second subdivides about what acts earn respect. And so on into further and further subdivisions of opinion. In these circumstances the initial trunk of the tree the presently uncontroversial tie between courtesy and re - spect ^would act, in public argument as well as private ru - mination, as a kind of plateau on which further thought and argument are built. It would then be natural for people to re - gard that tie as special and in the way of conceptual, to say.
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INTERPRETIVE CONCEPTS 71 for example, that respect is part of the very meaning of courtesy. They mean, not that anyone who denies this is guilty of self-contradiction or does not know how to use the word courtesy, but only that what he says marks him as outside the community of useful or at least ordinary dis - course about the institution. Our philosopher will serve his community if he can display this structure and i|^ate this conceptual connection between courtesy and respect. Hej can capture it in the proposition that, for this community^; respect provides the concept of courtesy and that competing positions about what respect really requires are conceptions of that concept. The contrast between concept and conception is here a contrast between levels of abstraction at which the interpretation of the practice can be studied. At the first level agreement collects around discrete ideas that are un- controversially employed in all interpretations; at the second the controversy latent in this abstraction is identified and taken up. Exposing this structure may help to sharpen argu - ment and will in any case improve the community s under - standing of its intellectual environment.
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