Friday, January 8, 2021

A vote for notes of fairness



Someone who is interested in the notion of public sphere these days caused me
to reply with some references and comment that I want to share, but expand.

Coincidently, New York Times journalist Thomas Edsall has this week re-raised issues of free speech with legal scholars in view of the authoritarian behavior of Trump (nothing new!—but now more dangerous than ever) and in view of the free reign of right-wing opinion in “viral” social spaces.

That dramatizes how philosophy of law is not basically about academic dispute. It’s about how we make and keep society good, humane, and, to my mind—and to Habermas, surely—make and keep society pragmatically progressive, which is also to say progressively pragmatic.

And that’s not mere academicism. What we are to do pertains to the scale of relevance that is each person’s daily life: being well, always being open to learning fundamentally new ways of thinking, and promoting community.

So, for the Facebook inquirer—who portrayed himself as seriously engaged with Habermasian interests—I recommended chapter 27 of The Habermas Handbook on the public sphere 50 years later, but discovered that the inquirer was just a casual browser, a tourist who wasn’t even spending the night (figuratively speaking: no reply, no follow up, no thanks, no expression of much further interest).

Regarding the other as a fellow traveler is usually disappointing. No biggie!
I’m here to be useful, to whatever degree that works.

But so many of us are shoppers only. We’re largely a species of tourists—
no thanks to an economic world that normally demands maximal time on the job, just to survive (maximum work for minimally-acceptable pay).

Notions of thoughtfulness in life are undermined by the realities of social economics that feed on sound bites, quick messaging, consumerist attitudes toward information as entertainment, admiration for slackers with Attitude,
and so on.

Who are we? Who are you?

I don’t post to Facebook/Habermas about my own odyssey of thinking and writing, but I should. Habermas is very old—and actually a voice of the last century, all in all.

Always, a leading voice recedes into speaking for its era, yet implicitly being
the question of what transcends one’s literal times to be appropriate for ones
to come.

We grow up, we achieve a lot (maybe), we pay forward (family, memorable influence), then move on: new ventures, old age. That continuum transcends eras, as a life is a life.

What’s a good life? Such questions are timeless.

In philosophy courses, undergraduates are “fated” to be Platonic at first, because mental development goes that way, before maybe moving into better paradigms.

The issues that occupied Habermas transcend his specific views. So, it’s unlikely that someone else will do better soon—certainly not easily. So what? How about doing the best you can? That’s fine! That’s fair. Do it. If you can do better than Habermas, good for you! Show up.

Doing one’s best should require appreciating your own times as best you can—your life, your neighborhood (in the widest sense: conceptuality, too), then appropriating others’ singular voice usefully for others, importantly (one hopes), and at best, lastingly.

My path has been my best effort to explore what thinking might do well to appreciate in our century—but also, without high pretense: I share what I enjoy.
I don’t posture some kind of exemplarity (but I do explore that theme a lot!: What is admirable exemplarity?). I share what I love to explore, just as an artist shares what’s done for the sake of itself—just as the “pure” researcher shares discoveries that have no discernible application (like the nature of the universe: Why is there anything rather than nothing?).

So, I share references, share interests, and satisfy myself that there’s good reason to do that.

I told the inquirer—who seemed interested in what I do—to look at section 5 of “astute reasoning and ‘fake news’,” which is “just a few paragraphs” at the bottom of that main page. (He did reply: “I’ll definitely be giving this a read.” Thanks.
Is ”be giving a read” basically like ”I’ll take a look”? Whatever.)

So, what about freedom of expression in Our age of social virality? Should the emancipatory notion of free speech be replaced by a practical notion of fair speech? (OK: Who decides what’s fair? But that’s the question which must be addressed! What is fairness, such that the sacred value can be a practical standard in social space?)

Aren’t questions of fairness as potentially intimate as one’s daily life?

What’s fair for good neighborhood? Good community? Good region? Good nationality (that is not crude nationalism)?

Isn’t fairness also about beauty, such that The Good and The Beautiful somehow belong together in some kind of Truth?

Stay safe. Make the year possibly new every day.

Today is the first day of the rest of your truthfulness.