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Extra resources for GETTING WHAT YOU WANT CL
Morality is not a matter of reason, but of contingent wants; nor, then, can the person be a rational thing, but must rather be a collection of contingent impressions, or perceptions. Or, since persons are not rational substances, so morality—which would have to move bundles of impressions to action—cannot itself be a matter of reason. I rather think that this is one element of what is an odd tension in Hume’s work, and one which makes a reading of him as simply the archsceptic of the tradition inadequate.
For all his commendations of the bourgeoisie, Machan’s observations on the achievement of the preEnlightenment and Enlightenment liberals, in constructing ‘men and women [who] belong by nature to no one’,16 are a much needed antidote to any temptation to sketch re-creations of some ‘golden age’, even if this is in the service of well-founded and well-deserved critiques of a contemporary state of affairs. Consider the notorious claim of a recent British prime minister, who, struggling rather in Flew’s confused manner with the twin requirements of liberalism and conservatism, and trying to attach a version of conservatism to a liberal, or perhaps libertarian, skeleton, opined that there was no such thing as society, but only individuals and families.
22 Rawls’ attempt to offer grounds for what might constitute a rational agreement among people ‘deprived of any knowledge of their place in society, their race, or class, their wealth or fortune, their intelligence, strength, or other natural assets or abilities’23 seems to me not entirely misconceived as a thought-experiment. For the fact that people in Rawls’ ‘original position’ do not know even ‘their conceptions of the good, their values, aims, or purposes in life’24 would count as an overwhelming objection to what Rawls is trying to do only if it were assumed that such conceptions must precede any moral debate.