Monday, January 4, 2010
I was surprised to open MoJ and find Steve Shiffrin's December 31 post.
The day before, in a post entitled "My New Years Wish," Steve asked for the thread concerning the dispute arising out of Michael P.'s Christmas Eve post to end. Earlier that day, Michael had stated that it was time to move on and I expressed my agreement. Michael and I both expressed the view that what had been said on the competing sides was there in black and white for readers to judge for themselves. Michael posted on the issue one more time, but I remained silent, thus giving him the last word between us.
So I'm now puzzled as to why Steve, after expressly and publicly calling for the thread to end, would (after it ended) post on the matter again, and do so in a way that all but literally invites Michael's critics to respond, thus reigniting the controversy. If Steve wants to discuss the role of disgust or repugnance in moral psychology, that's fine. But his post does more than that. First, it invites a comment from Michael S. or me that would, no doubt, provoke a response from Michael P. or someone else, and on and on. It then rehearses the claim (originally advanced in an effort to blunt my criticisms of Michael's Christmas Eve post) that I have made "personal attacks" on Michael and on Cathleen Kaveny.
It was, readers will recall, Michael, not me, who introduced the question of the comparative merits of the work of Professors Kaveny and Porter, on the one side, and Grisez and Finnis on the other. Now, there was certainly nothing out of line about Michael expressing his view of the comparative merits of these scholars. Although I strongly disagreed with his assessment, I urged readers to rely on neither Michael's opinion, nor my own. My advice to people who wondered which writers were more faithful to the tradition running from Aristotle through Aquinas was to read some work by Porter, Kaveny, Grisez, and Finnis, and judge for themselves which writers are superior in analytical rigor, logical precision, interpretative soundness, and depth of insight. I continue to believe that advice to be sound I don't see how anyone could quarrel with the criteria for assessment I set out in response to Michael''s claim for the superiority of the work of the writers he prefers.
Readers who are familiar with my article "Shameless Acts Revisited: Some Questions for Professor Nussbaum" Academic Questions, 9 (1995), pp. 24-42 will understand why I asked for confirmation from Michael that he was relying on Martha Nussbaum's authority.
And with that, I (at least) will move on.