Friday, April 21, 2017

Friedlander II

Having said I was considering a series of posts on Eli Freidlander's "Missing a Step Up the Ladder," I find that I have little I want to say beyond recommending the paper. I might do one more post on it, but this looks like being a short series. Here is one more passage that I don't understand though:
The ethical will is the actualization of the capacity for being in agreement with the world. This is not an agreement with what you represent to yourself to be essential to life. For such an agreement is understood through the primacy of ends, and the highest reality cannot be represented as an end I strive for—it is manifest as a limit I recognize. One could then say that “seeing the world aright” or simple and sober clarity of vision is the ethical imperative. Acting right is being in agreement with what has the highest reality, acting wrongly is letting yourself remain unclear, one might say unrealistic. What Wittgenstein calls in the Notebooks the voice of “conscience” arises out of a sense of non-being in my existence in meaning. This is also why ethics is so closely related to the question of nonsense in language.
The part I find especially difficult is the part I have put in bold. It might be impossible to understand this without reading the whole paper, which I should probably do again, but if anyone has any other suggestions I'd be grateful.


  1. "Acting right is being in agreement with what has the highest reality, acting wrongly is letting yourself remain unclear, one might say unrealistic."

    What I want to know is, what has the highest reality?

    As for the Q, I might take "my existence in meaning" as a reference to "my" (not my preferred way of expressing things) understanding of "the highest reality", which in turn I would interpret as referring to the ultimate (foundational) ethical principles, whatever they turn out to be once we have discovered them. These principles have some reality or existence in the Platonic sense, or have the most reality. When "we" are about to act under an inadequate grasp of these ultimate principles ("highest reality"), we have a sense of the "non-being" or "unreality" of our current grasp, and the sense that further inquiry is necessary. (I think 'clarification' is an important idea, and I think it would be good to understand what it involves and what are the ways of doing it.) (I'm just going on what you've presented us; I haven't read the Friedlander article.) (BTW, I'm also interested in the question of "nonsense in language", although what I understand by this formulation is a little different from Wittgenstein. E.g., when Dylan Roof said to his victims, "I have no choice", that is absolute nonsense.

    James Dennis

  2. did you catch: