Matthias Haase - December 2015 Meeting Topic

For Oneself and Toward Another: The Puzzle about Recognition

Matthias Haase (Universität Leipzig)

The paper is about to a certain way of thinking of the action of another. The posture of mind is characteristically expressed by a specific use of what G.E.M.Anscombe calls stopping modals. On this use, the sentence ‘You can’t do that; it is mine’ registers the necessity of justice. My question is how fact in the world, act of mind and linguistic expression are related here. What is the relation between the status of a person, a bearer of rights, the mental act of recognizing others as persons and the linguistic practice of addressing the demands of justice to each other? According to a certain strand in the tradition, the answer is that in the sphere of justice, language, mind and world enter into a special union such that there is a sense in which addressing, recognizing and being a person are one reality. The paper aims to articulate the relevant sense of ‘one reality’ and offers an argument in favor of the view so expressed. I hold that the intelligibility of very idea that it is necessary to act justly and avoid injustice depends on its truth. The puzzle will be that it is not easy to see how it can be true. A version of the view under consideration can be found in Aristotle. At the beginning of the Politics we are told that it belongs to the essence of rational animals to live together under a conception of justice: a being unable to do so is a brute, the one not in need to God. Aristotle supports the thesis with the remark that the “power of speech is intended to set forth the just and the unjust.” But on face of it, there is a huge gap in the alleged argument. Why couldn’t there a thinker who never actually communicates with another, or wholly telepathic and so non-linguistic communicators, or speakers for whom justice is not a possible topic of conversation? Peculiar as each might seem to us, couldn’t they nevertheless capture a possibility, say, the shape of finite rational life on Mars? The paper approaches the triad of fact, operation of mind and speech act through the investigation on the respective deontic fact. First, I argue for what Anscombe calls “linguistic idealism” about justice: without speech acts of addressing demands of justice to each other there are no facts about what is just. Secondly, I argue that this practice-dependence is incompatible with the necessity of justice – unless our thinking and speaking in that fashion is not an accident, but can be developed out of the very idea of rational life.