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Semantic quibbles #2: Virtue Ethics

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 18 years ago, in 2006, on the World Wide Web.

I don’t have much of anything useful to say about the Duke Lacrosse team rape case today. For news and commentary I’d suggest Justice 4 Two Sisters and Feminist Blogs. But I do have another reminder for those who have forgotten the logic of our language.

This reminder is in the form of a challenge, for neoconservative creepy spendthrift fascist David Brooks, in light of his recent foray into virtue ethics on behalf of something he calls the code of chivalry, and his complaints against sociological commentary. In order for Mr. Brooks to have his commentary on the commentary make sense, he’s going to need to explain a couple things:

  1. First, how the following are not terms that pertain to a discussion of character, or how they fail to highlight issues of morality:

    • Athletic thugs
    • Male predators
    • Lust
    • This whole sordid party scene
    • Entitlement and privilege
    • Inequality
    • Exploitation
    • Felt free to exploit
    • License to rape, maraud, deploy hate speech and feel proud of themselves in the bargain
  2. Second, how the following are something other than sociological hypotheses and sociological questions:

    • You would surmise that his character had been corroded by shock jocks and raunch culture
    • A community so degraded, you might surmise, is not a long way from actual sexual assault.
    • How have these young men slipped into depravity?
    • Why have they not developed sufficient character to restrain their baser impulses?
    • Today that old code of obsolete chivalry is gone, as is a whole vocabulary on how young people should think about character.

Any ideas? I’m open to suggestions. Without them, though, one just might fear that Brooks is drawing a false distinction. Or maybe even that in doing so, he’s misrepresenting the debate as one about over-arching methods. And that by doing so, he’s simply evading serious debate over, or even engagement with, substantively different views about morality and culture, or about the class structure of society, or about just what the ethic of chivalry really came to, and what it excused.

Just a thought.

For those willing to face the substantive part of this moral and sociological train-wreck head-on, see Jill @ Feministe (2006-04-09), Amanda @ Pandagon (2006-04-09), Echidne of the Snakes (2006-04-10), and Majikthise (2006-04-10), who’ve already said it better than I could.

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