Our first seminar for the year is at Flinders University.
Beyond Argument: on the ethical role of “seeing-as” experiences
2pm, Friday 3 March
Room 262, Humanities Building,
Bedford Park, Flinders University
In this paper I examine Cora Diamond’s critique of the relevance and efficacy of philosophical arguments with regard to certain ethical matters that are felt to be beyond our ken – say, our treatment of animals. Argument is contrasted with modes of address that attempt to present our difficulty in facing such matters, our “raw nerves”. I present Diamond’s analysis of Coetzee’s “Elizabeth Costello,” offering an alternative interpretation that nevertheless agrees with Diamond’s vision and fits the examples she offers in her paper: “The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Philosophy.” This alternative suggests a non-argumentative role for philosophy in regard to such ethical issues. My main aim is to propose a new way to understand Wittgenstein’s “seeing-as” experiences (e.g. the famous duck-rabbit example, and more importantly the experience of seeing two faces as similar) as imagistic rather than conceptual experiences. Once we allow for an imagistic seeing-as, philosophers can describe such an imagistic experience in order to elicit emotional responses that invite others to share that experience. Such descriptions differ from argued comparisons that are meant to explain a conceptual stand-point and purport to convince any rational thinker of a certain conclusion.