“In the Beginning was the Deed”: The Ungrounded Grounds of Rational Criticism



In his book A Common Humanity, Raimond Gaita writes:

Many people are afflicted by an anxiety — some by a sense of desperation — that the concepts which are fundamental to sober political judgment have come under attack. These are the concepts of commonsense and common knowledge. Concerning many public issues — education, the raising of children, censorship, unions, the courts — anecdotes abound which are intended to illustrate a radical loss of commonsense or a denial of something which is common knowledge. In itself that might occasion no more than amused condescension amongst people who have different ideas about which beliefs express commonsense. But whichever beliefs one takes to be expressive of it, everyone has reason to fear the destruction of the concept of commonsense, for the concept of sober judgment will be destroyed along with it. Far from being radically critical, we will then be prepared to believe anything. The political dangers of that are illustrated in hair-raising detail by Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago and by Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism.3


Moral Reasoning Moral Belief Social Criticism Normative Principle Moral Discourse 
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© Richard Amesbury 2005

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