We are strangers to each other. Our moral incoherences go stated but unremarked.
- “Who are you to say?”
- “That’s just your opinion.”
- “Well, let’s just agree to disagree.”
- “Because I said so.”
- “That’s my choice, not yours.”
We have even forgotten the question: What general beliefs confer rational authority upon a set of social practices? To say that a belief is rational is to imply that any person whatever can (ought to) assent to it. To say that a belief carries authority is to suggest that the utterance makes a demand for action or assent.
Every day our cultural failures are on view in our overextended discourse of freedom. If a “justification” doesn’t end with “Well, because so-and-so chose it,” then we feel unsatisfied. And yet this pseudo-justification is unsatisfying because the ability to choose one thing or another says nothing about whether the thing that we’re choosing is good or intrinsically worthwhile.
And that is scary because choosing is so arbitrary. In the modern age, the discourse of choice is the burden we carry.
Addendum: A Case about Playhouses
Of the $50,000 playhouse designed in a Cap Cod style for her young daughter, the mother remarked, “My daughter loves it. And it’s certainly a conversation piece.”
The mother’s reasoning: The daughter wanted it, she chose it, and she loves it. “But is it good–good independent of her choosing it?” The question is not asked and doubtless it cannot be answered.
Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue