Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Moral Guides

Over at TNR's Open University, David Greenberg wrote:
I once heard Paul Berman, in toasting Michael Walzer, say (and I'm paraphrasing) that when tough questions arise, he asks, "What would Michael Walzer think?" In other words, he looks to Walzer as a moral guide, a man whose opinions he might regard as wiser than his own. I've thought the same about my fellow Open U contributor Alan Wolfe. When Alan offers an opinion, it has to be taken seriously, and it often causes me to revise my own.

That immediately made me think of Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings. (Posts like this are the reason why.)

Whose opinions do you regard as wiser than your own?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I don't know of anyone right now who has wiser opinions than my own.

    I have no doubt there are people who do have opinions wiser than the ones I have now. If I knew who they were, and what their opinions were, I would replace my opinions with theirs, and I would be the wiser for it.

  3. I have some degree of agreement with Phil. If there's an opinion that I'm aware of and believe is better supported than my own, I'd like to think that I'd change my opinion.

    In other words, there are doubtless many people wiser than me, but if I knew what made them so wise, then I'd know as much as they did.

    On the other hand, I /do/ often think "What would opponent X say?". It's a nice trick for making sure that you aren't running away with an idea that there's an obvious objection to.

  4. I think that the two previous comments miss the point. If I find often that a person's opinions turn out to be wiser than mine (thereby changing my opinions often to agree with them, convinced by his or her arguments) or, more realistically, I find often that this person argues on a topic I haven't given much thought, defending an opinion in a completely convincing and inspiring way that makes me think that, even if perhaps I agreed before with the basic idea, I could never have articulated my reasons for it so well... well, then I would conclude that this is a much wiser person than I am.

    And yes, I agree with Richard that Hilzoy is one such person.

  5. "He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing. And so I go about the world, obedient to the God, and search and make enquiry into the wisdom of any one, whether citizen or stranger, who appears to be wise; and if he is not wise, then in vindication of the oracle I show him that he is not wise; and my occupation quite absorbs me, and I have no time to give hither to any public matter or interest or to any concern of my own, but I am in utter poverty by reason of my devotion to the god."

    (Sorry, couldn't resist)

  6. Does anyone have a similar guide for empistemology? If my brother tells me I am being unreasonable it always turns out that he is correct upon mature reflection later. He is reasonable and so I have come to believe him when he tells me that I am misinterpreting an argument or something like this.

  7. Richard, something tells me you're not a meme kinda guy, but I won you an award nonetheless.

  8. I agree with phil.

    Besides that - personally I find being 'convincing' to be a skill of car salesmen.

    It is good for convincing people to believe things that are not true or buy things that they do not want but doesn't earn much respect from me.



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