There was some discussion in the recent podcast about how an ethics can be derived from Martin Buber 's I and Thou. Recently one philosopher has pointed to Buber's work as at least an historical antecedent to his theory. The third chapter of Stephen Darwall's 2006 book, The Second-Person Standpoint, opens with the following quote from Buber:
When one says You, the I of the... I-You is said, too. Whoever says You does not have something for his object... he stands in relation. Relation is reciprocity. My You acts on me as I act on it.
Now Darwall does not go on to interpret Buber; his project is not one of explication. Rather, Darwall is trying to explain why, according to him, any moral relationship is irreducibly second-personal. What is a second-personal relationship and how does it connect to Martin Buber?
As Darwall explains it, the second-personal stances is one which involves 'reciprocal recognition'. The best way to get a handle on what Darwall is getting at is to uses the other relationship which Buber uses to contrast the I-Thou relationship: the I-It. The I-It relationship can be seen as either a first-person relationship or a third-person relationship.
To unpack this, Darwall typically uses the following example. There is someone stepping on my foot. I can say one of three things. First, first-personally, I can say 'I desire this foot to be off of mine.' This in itself does not give the other person a reason to remove his/her foot. They could simply say 'I desire the foot to stay.' The first person desire does not incorporate an authoritative reason to act. Second, third-personally, I can say 'It would be a good thing if feet were not stepped on.' Although this may give a reason to act it is not the right kind of reason. For it is more analogous to epistemic reasons. One has to already think it is a good thing for feet not to be stepped on. Therefore, this is a case of advice not command. Finally, second-personally, I can say 'Move your foot.' According to Darwall, when a command is given in this second-personal way, the hearer has a reason to act. For there is an summons of the speaker that is received by the hearer. Both recognize the other as a You. When the first addresses the second, he presupposes the hearer as a free practical agent. When the hearer accepts the summons, he recognizes this in the speaker. They are both Yous reciprocally recognizing each other.
Darwall develops this theory throughout his 300+ page book involves an interweaving of 'Pufendorf's point,' 'Fitche's point,' and 'Strawson's point.' He also has lengthy discussions on Kant, Smith, Hume, Reid and Rawls and drops the names of Hobbes, Hegel, Dewey and Levinas. The point is, that Darwall's book can not be explained fully here.
To close and bring thing back to Buber, here is Darwall's point and his reason for invoking him:
There are many kinds of interaction, including mutual awareness, that do not involve the reciprocal recognition that exists hen one person gives another reason to do something. Even within the set of reason-givings, for purposes we sharpen our focus further in two ways. First, many such interactions also involve nonrational influence-intimidation, seduction, and so on. We are concerned solely with the pure giving of reasons, abstracting from nonrational factors (or with interactions qua second-personal address). Second, there are reason-giving where the reasons are not themselves second-personal. Our focus is on the (second-personal) address of second-personal reasons.
Something that looks like reciprocal recognition occurs also in non-rational settings. When to dogs lock gazes, for example, and eye each other with caution, eagerness, or hostility, there is certainly a form of mutual awareness, even if e don't suppose that dogs have the rich array of higher-order attitudes that typically accompany mutual human awareness. But awareness of this kind is not yet second-personal in our sense. It need involve no form of address, much less address of the other as a person. Two prize fighters, peering into each other's eyes for clues about the other's movements, are not really addressing each other (so far anyway). Their thought and experience involve a combination of first- and third-person perspectives that do not yet amount to a second-person stance, even hen taken together. Each watches the other watching him. Neither relates to the other as a "you" to whom the first is a "you in return. In Martin Buber's terms, the "I" of each is an "I-It" rather than an "I-You" (Darwall, 39-40)
Now whether this is a correct use of Buber is another story. One that I will not address at here.
Peter Hardy says
I didn’t really take anything away from this piece but thanks for making the book known to me. I have been interested in this one recently: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Second-Person-Perspective-Aquinass-Ethics/dp/041589994X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361320804&sr=8-1 John Paul II also did interesting work in this area, influenced by Levinas: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Destined-Liberty-Person-Philosophy-Wojyla/dp/0813209854/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361320840&sr=1-2
Adam Arnold says
My intention was simply to bring the book to light who might be interested in Buber’s influence on someone writing today.
Adam Arnold says
I am unsure what Sennett’s view has to do with strictly normative reasons to act which is the topic of Darwall. We can see this from even the first thing which Sennett says “Basically cooperation is working with other people to do things you couldn’t do for yourself.” This is basically a prudential view. This comes out also here: “I don’t think I’m quite so moralistic. I don’t know whether that makes you a good citizen. What being socially competent does mean is that when you’re faced with challenges you don’t fall apart and the social networks of which you are a part don’t tear.” What we have with Darwall is not these first-personal/third-personal prudential reasons but rather a (second-personal) normative reason to act. It seems to me that Sennett is saying that it is better that we cooperate for instrumental reasons – it is better for dealing with the complex world. Darwall on the other hand is non-instrumental reason – the other gives us a non-instrumental reason to act; a moral reason to act.
Sennett is working after Dewey who denies that there are “non-instrumental” ways for human-beings to act and yet still has a serious ethical/normative dimension in his work, and recent developmental psychology supports such a neo-Darwinian view.
Adam Arnold says
I do not think it is accurate to read Dewey as rejecting “non-instrumentalism” exactly. He does consider things as ends. It is just that means-end relationship is reciprocal. What he denies, as far a I can tell, is ultimate ends – ends beyond human valuation. I take him to be more in line with John Ralws’s reflective equilibrium (or should I say Rawls was in line with Dewey via Nelson Goodman?). Furthermore, if we take a look at Dewey’s essay “Three Independent Factors in Morals” he says the following “There is an intrinsic difference in both origin and mode of operation beteen objects which present themselves as satisfactory to desire and hence good, and objects which come to one as making demands upon his conduct which should be recognized. Neither can be reduced to the other.” He goes on to note “Men who live together inevitably make demands on one another.” It is interesting that Darwall actually quotes this passage in a passage about P.F. Strawson when he could of just as easily quoted it in relation to his (all be it breif) discussio of Buber. Elizabeth Anderson also comments on this essay by Dewey in here “Dewey’s Moral Philosophy” in SEP.
Btw, the link was very interesting. Thank you.
sure, we may get a chance to get into Dewey’s instrumentalism down the road as I think that it is somewhere on the ever growing PEL reading list.
Always good to remember tho I think that his use of the term “intelligent” is more of an honorific than anything else.
I like Darwell’s quote in summing and bringing back to Buber. I have not read any of his work and my reads list is quickly expanding.
I listened to Sennett, and thought he made some good points using examples of how modernization, perhaps, costs us the skills to co-operate in face-to-face human interaction. Ironically, yesterday spoke with a retired English teacher who explained to me how “technical” writing is a skill needed, rather than long essay writing. This caused me to reflect on the day prior writing a few words petitioning funding for AAAS –three sentences. However, I had to wring it down to 200 characters, which quickly became one sentence and a fragment! This took a perplexing half hour!
That said, it seems to me meaning is lost in this kind of writing, bringing me to the point I wish to make which Sennett touched on—losing our skill to cooperate—that are relational themes in Buber’s work. The biggest social risk factors according to data are breakdowns in community involvement (disorganization) and we have the highest incarceration rate in the world for social control.
I’m not against data yet how is the subjective meaning of another person’s experience hindering the way we interact with another human being because it’s eliminated in our writing?
Reminds me of Victor Frankl’s work in Man’s Search for Meaning, defending the inability to redefine meaning hinders the ability to thrive and grow as living human persons—we get stuck. Similar to why meaning is important in “lexical analysis” in modern linguistic study in our attempt to understanding what words mean in a text.
all good examples of what I call the tyranny of the means, the question is can we somehow stand/reach outside of our all-too-human ways of interacting-with/manipulating our environs or as those of us after St. Fish would say can we only do what comes naturally?
Adam Arnold says
Is Unger’s (who I have only read very little of so I will have to go track down more now) use of negative capability similar to Gidden’s “Structuration” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structuration#Premises_and_origins_of_structuration_theory)?
dmf – Jeez, you have really made me think here to the point of silence. I was listening to Alan Saunders interview with Buber scholar Paul Mendes-Flohr. He starts by asking, “Have you ever felt your relationship made-up such a part of who you were that you felt it hard to tell where you ended and the other person began?” If so does this I-thou encounter come naturally to us?
Subjectively speaking for myself, no, and the reason I lean toward solidarity in our difference, although I wish not to treat others as a means to an end. You mention Fish, and I thought his essay in was interesting commenting on Stephen Asma’s book. (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/07/favoritism-is-good/).
In that sense, I think Buber, wrestling with individualism and conformism would agree with Fish. What do you think? Also, I am wondering if Negative capacity is similar to Herbert Marcuse’s usages of negation and the negative function of art
sorry I’m not really up on Giddens or Marcuse but will put them on the reading list, I take this line of thought up a bit more
Adam Arnold says
You remind me of the ‘contact hypothesis’… Check it out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contact_hypothesis