The wisdom of definition
“A LAWYER friend of mine, grappling with a thorny constitutional matter perilously close to home time, was chided by his associate for “over thinking” the issue. There’s no proper quantity of thought, he snapped back, it’s merely a question of getting the problem right or not.
Obviously, many matters are more complicated than they first appear, especially those dealt with by highly skilled professionals.
But that’s only half of the story. As Lucy Allais, who teaches philosophy at the University of the Witwatersrand put it, people have philosophical commitments, even if they don’t realise it.
While it is often tempting to just “get on with it”, even the most practical actions are connected to further sets of beliefs. That is, theoretical assumptions are already subsumed in the decisions that people make.
As Columbia philosopher and world class wise guy, Sidney Morgenbesser, pointed out, pragmatism is great in theory, but it doesn’t work in practice.
Allais is director of the new Wits Centre for Ethics (WiCE, which you are encouraged to pronounce “vice”). The centre aims, in part, to make the study of ethics accessible to the general public, and will be offering courses to professionals.”
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