Saturday, June 21, 2008

Praxis

Which is the best course: "Don't just sit there, do something," or "Don't just do something, sit there (at least for a while)"?

The first is termed "priority of praxis" -- praxis being "right action." WIth a philosophy of priority of praxis, what matters is what we do, and what we do affects what we think. If this is true, then it leads naturally to relativism. This is to be compared to the idea that what we think affects what we do. When we put thought before action, we first ask "why are we doing what we are doing?" This is a question not important under priority of praxis.

If action is what matters, then what we see is history just working itself out, and what we think doesn't matter. More, we should think at all about what we're doing. If action is all, and history is action, history is all, and we're not responsible for our actions. THe priority of praxis attitude leads to such catch-phrases as "Don't just sit there, do something," and "What's important is that you do something." As a consequence, what is important is one's good intentions, not the outcome of one's actions. It doesn't matter if you're on the right path or not, so long as you are moving forward. The problem is, with such an attitude, all one is going to do is get lost.


Good intentions don't matter. But neither do the ends justify the means. Virtuous action means first doing things for the right reason, then second knowing how to actually achieve the ends desired. If you intend to help someone, but you harm them instead, you should not be praised for good intentions. A good example would be if someone is having a heart attack, and you don't know CPR, but you administer it anyway and end up breaking the person's ribs, making it impossible for someone who does know CPR to save the person's life. You may have had good intentions, but the dead man's family would be right in being angry with you. They are right, because you acted unethically in attempting to do something you were not trained to do. Piety is no replacement for proper methods.
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