Maturity as a Guide to Morals

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  • Maturity as a Guide to Morals


    zur Erlangung des Doktorgrades

    der Philosophie an der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt


    vorgelegt von

    Nils Hedstrand



    Digitaldruckzentrum, Mnchen 2007

    Referent: Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Vossenkuhl

    Korreferent: PD Dr. habil. Stephan Sellmaier


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    Mature manhood: that means to have rediscovered

    the seriousness one had as a child at play.

    Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

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    Chapter 1. What is Maturity?

    The Aim of This Book 5

    Morality and Moral Judgement 14

    Stage Theories and Why They Fail 20

    Goodness 26

    Maturity as Mental Adulthood 36

    Chapter 2. Sympathy

    Universal Sympathy: An Overview 50

    Feelings and Emotions 52

    Love of Man 55

    Hume and Sympathy Today 59

    Sympathising and Being Sympathetic 63

    Affirmative Mental Attitude 68

    Friendly Feeling 72

    Universal Sympathy 75

    Sympathy and Maturity 79

    Chapter 3. Autonomy

    Maturity, Autonomy, and Sympathy: An Overview 81

    Kant and Autonomy Today 82

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    Kupfer and Autonomy Today 85

    The Self 91

    Self-image and Inner Harmony 94

    Autonomy as Authority Over Oneself 98

    Autonomy, Sympathy, and Maturity 102

    Chapter 4. Mature Judgement

    Maturity and Mature Judgement: An Overview 113

    Aristotle, Prudence, and Morality 116

    Factual Judgement and Moral Judgement 121

    Good Moral Judgement 132

    Maturity and Morally Relevant Knowledge 134

    Mature Judgement 142

    Mature Action 148

    Bibliography 151

    Zusammenfassung in deutscher Sprache 154

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    Chapter 1

    What is Maturity?


    The expressions mature and immature appear very frequently in our daily talk

    about morality: Not only do we say that a certain person, judgement, or action is

    good or bad, we also say that he/she/it is mature or immature. Interestingly, no

    philosophical research has yet been done to clarify the concept of maturity and its

    relevance to morality, despite its actuality and importance in everyday moral


    Academic philosophy should always keep an affinity to everyday life. Philosophy

    should not be done by researchers only, and philosophical texts, including doctoral

    dissertations, should be understandable to anyone without any previous knowledge

    of a certain philosophical terminology. In his Philosophy and Ordinary Language. The

    Bent and Genius of our Tongue, Hanfling says:

    [I]f there is vagueness or inaccuracy in a philosophers statements, then he can be asked to clarify his meaning in ordinary language; and we might become suspicious

    if he is unable or unwilling to do this.1

    With the expression ordinary language Hanfling means a language which lacks a

    special terminology. And he adds:

    1 Hanfling, Philosophy and Ordinary Language p. 2.

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    When people ordinary people or philosophers - ask questions about the extent of

    human knowledge, the reality of free will and the nature of happiness, we must as-

    sume that the meanings of these words are to be understood in accordance with their

    ordinary use. And even if these meanings are set aside in the course of a philoso-

    phers discussions, they cannot be altogether disregarded. At least the philosopher

    should be able to tell us why the ordinary meanings were set aside, and how the an-

    swers that he proceeds to offer are related to the original questions with the original

    (ordinary) meanings.2

    We will have more to say later in this introductory section about ordinary language.

    In this work we will analyse the different meanings of the everyday expression of

    maturity and other related everyday expressions: morality, sympathy, autonomy,

    and mature judgement. As a name for the everyday meanings of expressions we will

    make use of the expression common sense.

    Common sense can be used in different ways. It can mean a basic human reason or

    understanding, as in the German gesunder Menschenverstand, which is the way of rea-

    soning of the plain man, unschooled in logical thinking and unbiased by scientific

    standpoints and by ideological concerns. Further, instead of such a basic human rea-

    son, it can mean most mens moral intuitions: Without having reflected on a certain

    matter, something can seem obviously morally right or wrong to one, like a certain

    distribution of goods, or the killing of an innocent person. Thirdly, it can mean the

    actual moral views currently held by most people in a community.

    But when it comes to important moral questions like abortion, euthanasia, or capital

    punishment, most people tend to become confused and insecure, which shows that

    they are not really sure of their own moral views. And peoples current views con-

    cerning morality are easily influenced by the way information is presented through

    newspapers, television, etc., and they tend to change very rapidly, and it is also un-

    certain whose moral views are to be considered as representing common sense are

    we to include the views of children, of people who are old and confused, of crimi-

    nals, of political extremists and of religious fundamentalists, and of people suffering

    from various forms of mental illness? These objections are valid also concerning

    2 Hanfling, Philosophy and Ordinary Language pp. 4-5.

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    moral intuition: What we, i.e., people in general, find morally right or wrong at a

    first glance, before having considered the matter thoroughly, is a product not only of

    our upbringing but also of current influence by authorities. And the reasoning of the

    plain man, although being based on an immediate experience of everyday moral

    issues, tends to be burdened with prejudices and generally with unreflected dogmas

    inherited from parents and other authorites due to personal relations.

    In this work we will use common sense not in the meaning of a basic human rea-

    son, nor as moral intuition, nor as the actual views of most men, but instead in the

    meaning of the ways in which the expressions are used in daily speech, which de-

    termines their everyday meanings. The expressions relevant for the study are used in

    the way in which the author understands their use in everyday life today, and in

    such a way that no pretentious theoretical assumptions are connected to these uses

    prior to the analysis.

    Usually we have no difficulties in using a certain expression correctly, i.e., in the

    right context, which means that we understand what the expression means in a prac-

    tical sense. But when it comes to explaining what the expression means, i.e., how it is

    actually used, we easily become confused, which shows that although we are able to

    use the expression correctly, we are not aware of its exact meaning. This is not at all

    surprising, since our everyday expressions are vague, i.e., they have many different

    meanings, which can even be contradictory, since some of the different meanings of

    an expression may exclude other meanings. As we will see, maturity is used both as

    the moral development at a certain stage of life, which means that there are different

    kinds of maturity, one for each stage, and as meaning mental adulthood as such,

    where maturity is just one. And we tend to use autonomy as the capacity to care for

    oneself which makes it possible for one to fulfil ones social tasks, ones role in soci-

    ety, instead of just living from others, and this we consider a good thing, but we also

    use autonomy in the meaning of being able to question ones social roles and the

    tasks which these roles imply, and this may mean questioning ones own responsibil-

    ity and therewith ones social ties to other people: to family members, to friends, to

    working colleagues, etc., which may prove to be a danger to others.

    A philosophical analysis of common sense in this sense may raise the question how

    such an enterprise relates to the philosophical tradition from the 20th Century which

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    is called ordinary language philosophy. The term is mainly associated with the so-

    called Oxford School of philosophy which existed mainly during the 1950s and

    1960s. We will use Hanflings exposition of ordinary language philosophy from his

    Philosophy and Ordinary Language.

    Hanfling uses the term in a wider sense than just as meaning the philosophical

    method used by Austin, Ryle, and others; he does not hesitate to include the later

    Wittgenstein, and he defends this kind of philosophy as being highly valid today,

    and he uses it himself to criticise theories put forward by Quine, Putnam, and


    Hanfling identifies ordinary language philosophy with what he calls linguistic phi-

    losophy, which is the investigation into what we say:3

    The typical method of linguistic philosophy is to compare the use of it [an expres-sion] with claims or assumptions that have been made.4

    Concerning the question how t