You are viewing epweissengruber

My tweets


Can Tradition Accomodate Division?

"For the story of my life is always embedded in the story of those communities from which I derive my identity. I am born with a past; and to try to cut myself off from that past, in the individualist mode, is to deform my present relationships. The possesion of an historical identity and the possession of a social identity coincide. Notice that rebeillion against my identity is always one possible mode of expressing it." (221)


Enlightenment mechanization of human action & surveying society as a mechanism >>> Social theory gets ambitious and pretends to have the authority of a physical science >>> Planners (in state and in corporations) pretend to be able to know causes of and to predict outcomes of social activity >>> Self-defeating bureaucratic structures

Total control and genuine efficacy are NOT compatible

Characteristics of Successful Organizations

"efficient and effective, capable of dealing with its highly original task of surviving in the very environment which it is committed to changing." (106)

"total or near predictability on the one hand and organizational effectiveness on the other, turn out on the basis of the best empirical studies we have to be incompatible." (107)


To define the "conditions of effectiveness in an environment that requires innovative adaptation" (106), these characteristics are needed:

* continual redefinition of individual task
* communication of information and advice rather than instructions and decisions
* knowledge available anywhere in the network, not horaded or parsed out

Desiderata for an Organization

* individual initiative must be permitted
* flexible responses to changes in knowledge
* multiple centres for problem-solving and decision-making
* tolerate a high degree of unpredictability within the organization

Deleterious Effects of Micromanaging

* monitoring all the time is counterproductive
* trying to make activity of others predictable leads to
- routinization
- supressing individual intelligence and flexibility
- subordinates spending energy frustrating projects of some superiors
"Since organizational success and organizational predictability exclude one another, the project of creating a wholly or largely predictable organization committed to creating a wholly or largely predictable society is doomed and doomed by the facts about social life." (106)

Plato Feared Actor Politicians, we have Actor Managers

"The effects of eighteenth-century prophecy have been to produce inoti scientifically managed social control, but a skillful dramatic imitation of such control. It is histrionic success which gives power and authority in our culture. The most effective bureaucrat is the best actor." (107)

(Please do not include Garrick in this dismal crew)

My tweets


Alasdair MacIntrye: O Fortuna


The Florentine
"I conclude therefore that, fortune being changeful and mankind steadfast in their ways, so long as the two are in agreement men are successful, but unsuccessful when they fall out." (The Prince, Chapter 25)

[M.'s misogynistic conclusion to the chapter is brutal, but it reveals a great deal about the assumptions of the writer and his audience, as well as providing something to think about when reading the figure of Lucrezia in M.'s Mandrake and the philosophy dudebro joshing between Hamlet, Rosenkranz and Guildenstern]

The Scot
"... Fortuna is ineliminable" (105)

Consequences of Fortuna

[1] "[a] One of the problems created by the conventional philosophy of science is that it suggests to scientists in general and social scientists in particular that they should treat predictive error merely as a form of failure, except when some crucial question of falsification arises.[...]

[b] If instead we kept careful records of error, and made of error itself a topic for research, my guess is that we should discover that predictive error is not randomly distributed. [...]

[c] To learn wheter this is so or not would be a first step ... to talking about the specific parts played by Fortuna in different areas of human life rather than merely about the general role of Fortuna in all human life." (105)

My tweets


Newtonianism Rational but Not Reason Itself

[Was it the inevitable outcome of the work of prior physics, or can prior physics be called the "necessary" and/or "sufficient" conditions only in retrospect?]

"[a]... if we regard the principles and categories of Newtonian mechanics as satisfying the requirements of rationality-as-such, we shall obscure precisely that about them which rendered them rationally superior to their only available rivals in the actual context of physical enquiry in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

[b] What rendered Newtonian physics rationally superior to its Galilean and Aristotelian predecessors and to its Cartesian rivals was that it was able to transcend their limitations by solving problems in areas in which those predecessors and rivals could by their own standards of scientific progress make no progress. So we cannot say wherein the rational superiority of Newtonian physics consisted except historically in terms of its relationship to those predecessors and rivals whom it challenged and displaced. Abstract Newtonian physics from its context, and then ask wherein the rational superiority of one to the other consists and you will be met with insoluble incommensurability problems. Thus knowing how Newton and the Newtonians actually came to adopt and defend their views is essential to knowing why Newtonian physics is to be accounted rationally superior. The philosophy of physical science is dependent on the history of physical science. But the case is no different with morality.

[c] Moral philosophies, however they may aspire to achieve more than this, always do articulate the morality of some particular social and cultural standpoint: Aristotle is the spokesman for one class of fourth century Athenians, Kant ... provided a rational voice for the emerging social forces of liberal individualism. ... [but] Moral philosophies are, before they are anything else, the explicit articulations of the claims of particular moralities to rational allegiance. And this is why the history of moraity and the history of moral philosophy are a single history. It follows that when rival moralities make competing and incompatible claims, there is always an issue at the level of moral philosophy concerning the ability of either to make good a claim to rational superiority over the other." (268)

MacIntyre, Alasdair. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. 2nd ed. Notre Dame (IN): U of Notre Dame P, 1984.

My tweets


My tweets


After Virtue: Sidelights

I am reading Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue as a supplement to the logic of action addressed by G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright.

But MacIntyre works out the implications for his Aristotelian/Thomistic take on action in his criticism of post-Enlightenment culture.

The next few posts will bring out some of his drive-by blasts delivered in the course of his sweeping critique.

I am open to MacIntyre's Aristotelianism as well has his anti-mechanistic take on human action. His social critique touches on many themes to which I am sympathetic, particularly a skepticism about "rights" discourse as a guide to moral and political action. But his insistence on the centrality of teleological thinking to all of human endeavour, and the unity of all discrete goals in an over-arching movement towards the highest good, that's another matter.
   A logic of human action can render human goal-directed action intelligible and the logic worked out by Wright and Anscombe is compatible with some of Aristotle's analyses of it. But that logic does not necessitate extending telos and intentionality to all forms of human interaction, or to proposing a unitary narrative arc to history, institutions, or practices.
  What virtues might be in an account informed by a logic of human action unencumbered by reductionism or the supposition of a unified higher good is, to say the least, a puzzlement. Virtues presume a thread of continuity or a projection into past and future, and are not intelligible in terms of a "basic" or "atomic" action. And they presume enduring-and-changing contexts of communities and institutions as well as endurance across the incidents of a human life. W. Benjamin recommended the recollection of defeats as a salutary discipline for radical action. There is a past out of which resistance can spring and resistance need not depend on the moment of decision or the catastrophe or the state of emergency to generate unheralded innovations. Maybe there is something to be leared from a philosopher that recommends Eleanor Marx and Trotsky, as well as St. Bernard and Benjamin Franklin, as moral exemplars that should displace Hume, Kant, and Sartre.

Some links:

The Amazon:
Virtue Ethics:
Aristotelianism: (MacIntyre's pre-After Virtue papers)
MacIntyre the Thomist:

Latest Month

July 2014



RSS Atom
Powered by
Designed by Tiffany Chow