On Schliesser on Glymour
This is a slightly amended version of a comment on one of Eric Schliesser’s responses to Clark Glymour’s opinions concerning philosophy.
How can you use “philosophical background to write insightfully and importantly about public policy” if there’s no background? I take it that the background is either (i) traditional ethics, including the “theoretical ethics” that is being consigned to the trash, or (ii) some formal-philosophical alternative. If (i), the proposal to save public policy ethics is incoherent when accompanied by a proposal to consign traditional ethics to oblivion. That leaves (ii). Is anyone actually doing public policy ethics in a formal way?
I think you’re right that there must be a supposition to the effect, not that truth-seeking entails liberal politics, but that there will be a consensus on that point among genuine philosophers, on the basis of which public policy ethics can be carried on by “formal” means, i.e. by means that themselves make no ethical presuppositions.
The justification of that consensus can only be a mystery from the standpoint of genuine philosophers themselves. How is it that agents who value, and therefore seek, truth should regard themselves as bound by (other) liberal values?
On that point there has been discussion, hasn’t there? —an “open society”, I take it, is supposed to be optimal for science, etc. It’s not clear to me why the argument has to be a priori, by the way. What bars appeal to general facts about nature and human nature?
Even if one waives the issue you raise, and grants that (i) there is a consensus and (ii) that consensus is liberal (both of which facts will be, as I said, mysteriously ungrounded, by which I don’t mean that there would be no natural scientific explanation of them, but that there would be no rational justification of it, for surely no-one thinks that ”Darwin makes right“), nevertheless what we agree on is not, so to speak, lying out in the open like the constitution of a state (and just mentioning consitutions suggests that even if they did, their interpretation would still be contentious). The route to an explicit version of the agreed-upon principles and from them to policy would require something other than “logic, mathematics and the theory and practice of computation”.