Thursday, September 06, 2007

O'Donovan on wakefulness IIa: Admiring

Admiring
I will need to be briefer today as I have less time. Last night was also more difficult than Tuesday.

The second lecture was called Admiring and in it, O'Donovan spoke of the human echo to the divine 'behold, it was good'. Moral deliberation begins with observation and ends with obligation. It begins by admiring the goodness of the world and ends by resolving on the rightness of an act. In each case, this lecture sought to address the former, leaving the latter for the third and final address.

In the world are goods to be known and loved. Indeed 'admiration' admirably captures this affective cognition, or cognitive affection, this combination of knowledge and love. Admiring is not an act, it is a resting; the goods which we admire are objective (it would have been interesting to have heard someone press him on cultural construction of goods, but there were enough other interesting things in the lecture that no one did) and so morality is not a way of expressing ourselves or an act of will. Ockham's ontological miserliness needs to be countered by generosity if we are to receive anything in return. That is, whether something is 'good' or not is not an additional property added on later by human will, as though we get to decide and attribute 'values' to things.

Indeed, what we know, we know as good. What we do not know as good, we do not know. Morality doesn't begin after knowledge. Love is there with knowledge from the start. In this, O'Donovan was affirming Augustine's view of evil as privation, as a lack of good (just as darkness is a lack of light and coldness is a lack of heat), rather than as anything 'positive' in its own right. Indeed, O'Donovan's Augustinianism came through very powerfully throughout this talk.

But what about 'bare facts'? Don't we sometimes know things that are themselves value-neutral? Yes, though these are not instances of pure knowledge, purgued of subjective confusion, but of incomplete knowledge, aspects of reality that we do not yet know how to know. Like jigsaw pieces, we can describe their shape, colour and size, but until we know where they fit, we don't know them as something; we don't yet know them for what they are. Such 'objective' knowledge is only knowledge of the surface, ignoring the depth, and can only be sustained for so long.

So moral knowledge is not knowledge of bare facts, because knowledge of bare facts is not real knowledge at all. Neither does the observer disappear in self-forgetful fascination. No, moral knowledge is reflective knowledge that includes knowledge of the self as loving: "love implies love of one's own love" as Augustine said (somewhere).

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I've run out of time and need to head off, even though I haven't yet got to the most interesting material on dread, repentence, conversion, the ordering of loves, gratitude and hope. I'll have to come back to this later.
Fifteen points for correctly naming this natural speleological feature.
Series: I; IIa; IIb; IIIa; IIIb.

15 comments:

Gordon Cheng said...

Byron, thank you for using your capacious brain space (er...not meaning you have an empty head!) to summarize O'Donovan for us.

Sadly family stuff together with work has prevented me from getting there in the last two nights as I hoped to, and looks like I will miss tonight too. So really appreciate your reports.

michael jensen said...

Ditto.

Who are the Sadly family?

Also tell me the crowd was decent and the questions good.

Christian said...

"what we do not know as good, we do not know... Bare facts [...] are not instances of pure knowledge, purgued of subjective confusion, but of incomplete knowledge, aspects of reality that we do not yet know how to know" - That observation is brilliant...and so counter to what we're taught to think!

Thank you for the summaries and keep them coming (I missed his second two talks).

Bruce Yabsley said...

Also tell me the crowd was decent and the questions good.

The crowd was both very full and very attentive on all three nights, and the standard of the questions was high; this was remarked by many people. The second night did feature a few contentious and pre-conceived questions which were at some distance from the concerns of the lecture ... one of them on eschatology, as reported by Byron in the post following this one. Byron's generosity in describing this question provides an echo of OO'D's manner in answering the questions generally ...

The summaries are faithful and rather good, BTW.

byron smith said...

the standard of the questions was high
Especially since Bruce asked a few! Nonetheless, it was a question from Andrew Errington which drew O'Donovan's praise for the level of questions and the familiarity of the audience with his work.

matheson said...

What did Erro ask?

byron smith said...

Erro asked about the relationship between conversion and moral wakefulness.

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Jenolan Caves?

byron smith said...

Moffitt - Sorry, not specific enough.

Anthony Douglas said...

Ok, it's an unusual perspective for the shot, but my guess is the Grand Arch at Jenolan.

byron smith said...

Not the Grand Arch - unfortunately, it's not in nearly as good condition as this one.

Moffitt the Prophet said...

The entrance to the Nettle Cave?

byron smith said...

Yes, that's true, though is not the generally-used name for this space. It's a little like calling the Harbour Bridge the entrance to North Sydney.

Moffitt the Prophet said...

The Devil's Coach House?

byron smith said...

Indeed it is. Free entry. 80m tall (I think that's right - that's my memory). Fifteen points.