In an earlier post I expressed puzzlement that Hursthouse’s “The Central Doctrine of the Mean”, her contribution to the recent Blackwell anthology, was written as if Howard Curzer had never responded to her original paper-- even though Hursthouse several times refers to Curzer, and Curzer’s paper (for those who have studied it) might be thought to make a serious reply.
This seems a shame. Hursthouse writes a provocative paper; Curzer pens a vigorous reply. Hursthouse’s paper, then, misses an opportunity to resolve or advance this quaestio disputata.(And how could I not lament a lost opportunity to set out dissoi logoi?)
And yet--as a reader of this blog has now pointed out to me--the discussion that I had been looking for has been carried out, by Giles Pearson, in the latest issue of Ancient Philosophy ("Does the Fearless Phobic Really Fear the Squeak of Mice Too Much", 26: 81-91)!
Pearson agrees with me that the dispute is a close one, and, after moderating the discussion, he arrives at an appropriately moderate conclusion:
As I see it, Curzer’s purely quantitative reading of Aristotle comes at too great a cost; at the same time, Hursthouse’s account actually seems to understate the quantitative dimension to virtue. As one might have anticipated, the truth is somewhere between these two extremes.And given that the debate is so close, Pearson is puzzled, as others have been, that Hursthouse’s latest essay fails really to engage Curzer’s objections:
It is noteworthy that though she makes frequent reference to Curzer’s paper she does not directly address his arguments….Indeed, he takes the strong view that the paper does nothing to reply to Curzer, that the force of Curzer’s arguments is not deflected by anything Hursthouse says in her latest paper: “Hursthouse’s new account … fails to undermine Curzer’s position”, he remarks. Pearson's crucial observation on that head is perhaps this:
We can thus grant that description is important in general, but insist that since it does not seem to affect the general structure of the original arguments, we should deny its importance in the dispute at hand. If so, Hursthouse’s latest arguments do not undermine Curzer’s approach…Yet for all that Pearson is unconvinced by Curzer, and the 'quantitative' Doctrine of the Mean, and he goes on to formulate his own objections.
Perhaps I’ll examine these in a later post (you may be wondering about those 'fearless phobics')--and say more, too, about how I think the Doctrine of the Mean in ethics should be understood.