progressive practice
points of life
  ethical sense for every scale

gary e. davis
March 7, 2022
Though “empathy is one with one” [1], “one” may have any scale for a person, depending on the person’s appreciability. Enriching appreciability—through teaching and through educational leadership (be it organizational, political, or artistic)—enriches one’s selfidentical scale of caring—which is not merely expansive. It’s an appreciability of potential and depth: capability for finding “intimacy in friendship, friendship in solidarity, and solidarity in civil life” [1]. Appreciability involves capability for finding inwardness in outer worlds; and outer worlds mirroring one’s appreciability (outwardness of selfidentity).

One’s conception of humanity mirrors one’s own humanity. Enrichment of one’s own humanity is mirrored by enrichment of one’s conception of others’ worlds. And “lives which care greatly are superior to lives that care little” [2].

Values originate principles which are served by norms. Principles are the living basis for assenting to a regulative proposition proffered for normative orientation of action.

Values that truly matter are those which mirror selfidentity: ValueVs. Selfidentical values prevail for orientation of action because one’s life is invested in their appeal. On this basis, one makes sense of principles as appealing for orientation of action, thereby possibily making good sense of a pricniple-based order at some appealing scale (domestic, local, regional, national, transnational) which one can appreciate, support, and relatively exemplify through practices, perspectives, policies, case-making, and teaching.

So, when policymakers and commentators reference the “rule-based” international order, they’re presuming the appeal of that across levels of interest which, in principle, make sense of that valuatively relative to appreciable scale.

The “rule of law” and “rule-based order” may imply various levels of appreciability, which I’ll parse at four levels (analogous with standard moral-developmental psychology): I: a paternalist ValueV sphere (patriarchal, autocratic): II: conventional ValueV sphere (ethnic, sociocentric network, market defined); III: a deliberative ValueV sphere (genuinely normative); and IV: a very flexible sense of ValueV relativity that furthers lifeworldliness—furthers one’s humanity, Our humanity, and cultural evolution, that I associate with a conception of protean life, which—ideally, for me—lives easily with a rich sense of lifeworld globality. I’ll focus on this continuum later.

A few days ago, I noted at the NYTines, against an article’s simple assertion of the value of the “rules-based order” (Fiona Hill, wonderful mind) that “the U.N.-type of order emerged from values that motivate the coordinated global response to Putin’s paranoia. Humanity advances in light of integral values which rules implement. Rules are no better than the values they actualize. In individual life, one complies because it matters. Humanity matters. Thus, human rights, thus humanitarian care.”

But a person appreciates values relative to a developmental level (e.g., paternalist, thus finding autocracy comforting) more than its higher level (widely “normal”); and the paternalist doesn’t at all appreciate (or even make sense of) a still-higher level (e.g., deliberative assent to a principled policy), let alone making sense of a flexible approach to individual differences (which excellent teachers and leading minds easily do).

Yet, current public support for coordinated international sanctioning of Putinism is heartening, though that support is congruent with any developmental level of appreciation (one paternalist against another, normality against abnormality, astute reason against phony nationalism). Spontaneous support for the rule-based order may also expresse an implicit “downward” continuum of value, from exemplary transnational heights back into singular lives because history of the past half century has instilled in our lives—domestic, local, and regional—the values that have sustained such politics which has sustained a largely peaceful international order. Identification with the principled international order is valuable, virtuous, and democratically powerful. It has nothing to do with abstract respect for some categorical imperative.

But generally, progressives can’t expect public support for high-scale policies without progressive engagement with teaching appreciation across lived scales, paradigmatically as great expansion of access to higher education.

Opinion leaders might better appreciate their responsibility to teach, not merely defend policies through arguments that are supposed to compel assent, rather than appealing well and variably.

Advancing appreciability should prevail over educing assent because the former advances the efficacy of the better arguments.

Astute public figures know that they are educators first, policy advocates secondly. A great degree of leading journalism is performing an educative role (which is why so many stories are filled with background repeat of earlier aspects of an ongoing issue from earlier stages of the story).

But a major challenge for social progress is that persons don’t make time to read (or to listen) attentively, due (I suspect) to long gone desire to learn (otherwise giving time to gaining understanding of complex narratives)—and, of course, due to a labor market that squeezes maximum time from lives. That suits business greatly: Minimize worker/consumer time to become a sophisticated citizen, especially through intensive marketing of consumptive appeals (creating distractive “demand”) which requires maximized worktime for addressing “demanded” supply.

Political conservatives count on weak public desire to learn. Business and conservative politics want minimal free time for consumer/voters to deliberate. Induced impulses to act can be managed; deliberative life eludes that. Gaining and sustaining excellence in their region’s continuum of education (pre-K through 12) is not a pressing issue, notwithstanding progressively activist parents.

Consumer business doesn’t need an educated buyer, beyond ensuring the appeal of their product marketing. Business and politics will adjust marketing to suit whatever motivates the consumer/voter to buy—and the more that voting is modeled as buying (“buying in”), the better. Trump proved that in spades. The business of politics and politics of business will gladly stoop to draw in all consumers, if feasible. They don’t need the consumer to gain sophistication. The lower the cultural literacy, the more cost-effective the marketing.

So the work of progressives—advancement of being well, good thinking, and community—regularly faces a counter-reformational headwind. Power doesn’t need sophistication of values, ValueV-appeallant principles, and principle-based normative orders.


next—> bettering humanity



  Be fair. © 2022, g. e. davis