I haven’t done a lot of work over Easter. I played a couple of games of golf, as I have been trying to read Immanuel Kant’s, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (the excellent CUP edition with introduction by Christine Korsgaad) and have, as well, been listening to music – Beethoven and Mozart String Quartets (by Quartetto Italiano and the Eder Quartet respectively) as well as a time-worn set of old Beethoven Symphonies by Herbert von Karajan from 1963. One’s tastes in classical music form early and changes in preference are difficult to effect. I’ve struggled with the John Elliot Gardiner “original instruments” version of the Symphonies for a year or so and have never really enjoyed their ultra fast tempos. Karajan-style performances I can relate to and enjoy immensely. Finally, on music I bought a whole batch of Maria Callas CDs a few years back but always got stuck listening to a couple of them that I really liked. This Easter I’ve made an effort to listen to all of them – her voice is (of course) perfection.
Kant is difficult to read and while I understand the different distinct parts of his argument in isolation there are links in his logical development that I don’t see. Think about this. He writes on the content of his categorical imperative, the meta- law for deciding whether a maxim is moral or not:
“…when I think of a categorical imperative I know at once what it contains. For since the categorical imperative contains, beyond the law, only the necessity that the maxim be in conformity with this law, while the law contains no condition to which it would be limited, nothing is left with which the maxim of action is to conform but the universality of a law as such; and this condition alone is what the imperative properly represents as necessary.
As Korsgaad says this passage “makes even practiced readers of Kant gnash their teeth”. She provides a “translation” which runs along the lines that the categorical imperative is an unconditional requirement so ethical maxims that satisfy it must themselves be universalizable laws. It is hard going and easy to gloss over the tough bits and to concentrate your attention on Maria Callas. I find the original Kant very difficult and need to précis it first – apart from Korsgaad I’ve been using Mark Timmons, Moral Theory as a reader’s guide.
Yes I did have some Easter Eggs and generally have enjoyed the holiday but, no, I did not go to Church. Nor did I read the newspapers – I am weary of politics and need a break from them for at least a few days. I have a PhD thesis to grade and several refereeing tasks but I am postponing them all.
I did watch (for the first time in months) some TV fiction –“Last Tango in Halifax” mainly because I saw Derek Jacobi was performing in it. He was excellent as one of a pair of ageing romantics (the other was Anne Reid) who meet up on the Internet and, at this stage, announce their intention to marry. I am now trapped into watching a 6-part series. I have also been reading Margaret Atwood’s, Oryx and Crake, mainly on grounds that I heard it was an anti-globalization, environmentalist tract and I am currently working on environmental ethics. It isn’t really that but it is a distinctive type of fiction. The bleakness is enjoyable.
I hope my readers also enjoy the valuable Easter post-Xmas break.