What characteristics can be laudable?

Hello everyone, I apologize for my second prolonged absence.  I think that I’ll have a little more time over the next two weeks, so I should be able to post semi-regularly (I’ve committed, just don’t ask what semi-regularly entails.)

In my most recent post I examined of whether there are physical characteristics that are more or less laudable to admire (my specific examination being whether the admiration of eyes was somehow superior to the admiration of, say, the admiration of posteriors).  My conclusion on the subject was that there weren’t.  My most dedicated wordpress commenter and commentator, ausomeawestin, disagreed (and if you like my stuff, you might be interested in his).  He proposed that the admiration of certain features (such as admiring someone’s eyes) were higher and more laudable because they were a step away from carnal fleeting pleasures towards more admirable and enduring pleasures.  The immediate question this raised in my mind was ‘what does it mean to laud someone’s taste?’  What is it that we are praising?  My knee jerk reaction is that the only laudable characteristic of a person is their moral status – all other things are superficial.  I reigned myself in from this initial impulse.  Someone’s diligence, for example, can remain admirable no matter what use they put it too.  I think that it would be very easy for me to fall into the trap here of saying ‘without free will, there can be no legitimate admiration’.

I want to make a note here.  Ausome’s analysis made use of Mill’s utilitarianism.  In most of my reflections I am further developing my own personal system, and that is what I am doing here as well.  To quickly review the relevant material, I think that we come into beings as agents as we age, but this agent is not a free agent.  This agent cannot free itself, but instead must be liberated to its own autonomy through chance and circumstance.  Freedom is when an agent rules itself.

It seems to me that the only characteristics of an agent that can actually be laudable are those which are generated by their agency.  In other words, an un-free agent can have no laudable characteristics.  An agent can be in the possession of an admirable body, but this is in a way not a property of an agents identity (though it can certainly contribute to the identity an agent develops).  The admiration of features can only be laudable, by my reasoning, when the act of admiration is an act of agency.  I do not mean by this that all acts of will are laudable, but that the property of laudable can only be applied to acts of will.  Most body admiration, I tend to think, is rather involuntary (what does it mean to voluntarily find a body attractive?  The answer is unclear to me?)  We can laud someone’s behavior in reaction to this experience (not being lewd, for example), but the admiration itself does not seem admirable.

Now, to give auesome’s notion fair treatment, I think I must point out that many find involuntary acts laudable.  Many would laud someone who unthinkingly leaps to the aid of another, for example.  I would disagree with this characterization, however, unless the person has intentionally developed that involuntary impulse (such as an EMS professional).

Let me know what you think,


PS: if you are reading this on blogger, most of the conversation occurs on the wordpress version of the blog.

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2 thoughts on “What characteristics can be laudable?

  1. Haha thanks for the shout-out and link!

    I think your proposal here is fascinating; it certainly seems that the most laudable qualities of a person are their autonomous choices. Nevertheless, the difficulty of separating fully autonomous choices out from non-fully autonomous choices should not be underestimated. Responsibility-catering theories of justice, egalitarian and otherwise, have struggled to establish the necessary and sufficient conditions for a perfect fit, such that some of the most optimistic commentators have argued for a spectrum of autonomy, with no action being fully autonomous in the real world. Still, I think your view on the laudable can accommodate this, plus, your conception of autonomy might be different in such ways that allow for fully autonomous actions.

    • Your welcome 🙂

      Your point on the challenge of separating the autonomous from the non-autonomous is fair. I have simplified my notion of autonomy in my past examinations. I do not think that someone who takes responsibility upon themselves does so unilaterally. Some people may take responsibility for certain parts of their lives but not others. I would say that even someone who is extremely attentive to their actions still only acts autonomously a fraction of the time. Autonomy takes enormous amounts of energy. This is why using autonomy to set habits is so important in my view – it allows us to rule ourselves without being constantly active. As you say, I think my view on the laudable can accommodate these notions. As to the spectrum notion, I’ll have to think more about how I feel about that.

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