More on Anaximander later. But for today, I wished to notice Catherine Osborne's book, Dumb Beasts and Dead Philosophers, through drawing attention to this paragraph from a recent review:
In Chapter Seven ('On the Notion of Natural Rights: Defending theNow suppose that by 'absolute moral value' Osborne means something like 'starting point' (or 'first principle of practical reason'). It seems right to say that the appeal to gods, and the appeal to rights, both play the role of a starting point or first principle in practical thought. It also seems right to say that roughly the same sort of starting point might be affirmed, either in the language of gods or in the language of rights.
Voiceless and Oppressed in the Tragedies of Sophocles') O. addresses
the connected questions of the appropriateness of speaking of rights in
general, and of using this language in speaking about animals. Through
a reading of Sophocles O. develops the argument that where in our own
time we tend to employ rights language to express moral outrage, other
forms of language were employed for the same purpose in antiquity, in
particular that of religion (182). Following this analysis, O. gives a
'Possible Historical Sketch' of how the vocabulary of rights developed.
O. concludes that what has occurred is the replacement of 'one set of
imaginary entities, the gods, with another set of imaginary entities,
rights', neither of which makes clear 'the real source of the
constraint . . . absolute moral value' (193). On this replacement of
imaginary entities, O. is very convincing, but the invocation of
'absolute moral value' here and elsewhere in the book is more
problematic. The existence of an absolute standard is asserted on
several occasions, but not really argued, raising the objection that
replacing both the gods and rights with absolute moral values appears
to be simply the introduction of a third imaginary entity or group of
entities to replace the previous two. The questions of the sense in
which these absolute values can be said to exist, how we can know about
them and how we can be sure that we perceive them and are not
perceiving something which is merely culturally constructed are also
not directly addressed.
If we grant this, then does Osborne really need to tell us 'how absolute values can be said to exist' and 'how we can know them' and 'how we can be sure we perceive them'?
One wonders: Can't those questions ever be put aside? Must they always be answered first? Is it inevitably a deficiency when they are not?
Or: Shouldn't the reviewer, then, first explain, before he raises his criticism, why he ultimately thinks that Osborne must do this, and how he can know that she must, and how he can be certain that he isn't simply going along with constructed cultural norms in insisting that she should?