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The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 9, 2006

Philosophical Anthropology

James F. Perry
Pages 193-198

Peace on Earth, Good Will to Shoes?

Philosophers are uniquely qualified to negotiate a balance between the reflective potential of globalization and the great routine powers of nations, states, tribes, and families. Here's how we can do it: we can teach the difference between playing a game and choosing a game. From time immemorial people of all tribes and cultures have marked a sharp distinction between those individuals deemed qualified by age, expertise, or status to choose or write the rules, and those other, lesser individuals who are obliged merely to obey those rules. This is the traditional difference between a person, on the one hand, and a utensil, on the other: persona est sui iuris; servus non est persona ("A person chooses its own laws; a slave is not a person"). Persons, but not utensils such as shoes, have, and deserve, good will. To a person, a culture is a means of creating a sustainable humane environment. To a culture, a person is a means for the culture to replicate itself. Placing culture first is a tradition we can no longer afford to maintain, because it makes enduring peace impossible. The purposes utensils can be made to serve have become too terrible (and, with the advent of global communication, too obvious) for the human race to endure, and the capacity of the voiceless to express themselves violently is increasing without limit. Hence we must create new traditions in which we teach all our children reflective thought, with which rules are pragmatically justified rather than unquestionable. To that end I propose to distinguish random, routine, and reflective thought and action. Each of these three levels of thought and action has its costs and its benefits; together they contain the entire range of human possibility. Three familiar philosophical concepts support my claim that reflective thought and action can and must be taught to and learned by all.