Charles Fort, the Fortean Society, & Unidentified Flying by Loren E. Gross

By Loren E. Gross

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This by no means excludes other questions, problematics, and approaches to moral phenomena. g. Parkin 1985; Caton 2010; Biehl 2012; Das 2012). Csordas has recently claimed that confronting directly the presence of evil is essential for the anthropology of morality, because, ‘if it wasn’t for evil morality would be moot’ (in press; his emphasis), which shows that the concept of ‘morality’ he is working with is very different from that of the ethical dimension of life as we are concerned with it in this book.

For Kant, the question of whether or not we follow the dictates of the moral law was a matter of the free exercise of the will. That was why he began the Groundwork by declaring that the subject matter of ethics is ‘the law of freedom’ (1996a [1785]: 43). For Durkheim, by contrast, the question of whether we follow the rules of the groups to which we belong was a matter of how well designed the institutions are and how well we are socialized into them (1957 [1937]: 14–15). So the deep, imponderable conundrum of Kantian philosophy – just what is the relation between man as a part of the natural world, subject to cause and effect, and man as a free and rational being – becomes no problem at all in Durkheim because it is only the state – and the sociologist – that need exercise freedom or reason.

The point, instead, is to find a way to ask another question. It is not to say that moral life contains no rules; it is to ask what if anything is distinctive about these rules: what might be true of the ethical dimension of human life that is not true of everything else? It is, in other words, to try to bring into view something of what is distinctive of ethical life, the complexity and specificity of ethical reflection, reasoning, dilemma, doubt, conflict, judgement, and decision. The mirage of relativism The second obstacle to sustained progress in the anthropology of ethics is the idea of ‘relativism’ as the anthropologist’s ex officio stance on moral life and as a sort of disciplinary membership badge.

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