From One Community to Another and Back Again, Jamming, 14/10/2013

So the blog has been silent for a few days, breaking my promise with an altogether epically crazy Thanksgiving Weekend with the girlfriend's old compatriots in St. Catharine's. Things I learned included that pumpkin ales are fantastic and that EVE Online is far too complicated for me to have bothered getting into now that ground-floor entry is impossible.

For a brief philosophical reflection, I have been thinking more broadly about virtue ethics not just as a moral philosophy on a personal scale, but the social effects of virtuous people being one of the motivating factors for incorporating that kind of moral structure into people's daily lives. Political philosophy tends to focus on large-scale events and structures: global economic flows, states, legal regimes and court institutions. Think of it as the macro level. Moral philosophy tends to focus on individual decisions; even in several of the virtue ethics discussions I'm familiar with, the discussion aims to identify rational moral principles and imperatives relevant to a particular problem, about which a right or wrong decision could be made. Call this the micro level.

But what about the meso level? Events at the level of social interactions, but involve more people and have more complicated cascading effects than a single moral decision taken in isolation. A couple of weeks ago, at the last McMaster Invited Speakers' Series talk I attended, I asked the speaker about the contribution of communitarian perspectives to the problem he was speaking about. Even here, focus on productive and freeing elements of community relations were a matter for skepticism. Communitarian theory in most of its history has been about obligations individuals have to conform to the standards and practices of a community, or how the community shapes and constrains the individual.

How individual action in social contexts changes communities over time doesn't seem, at least to me at this point, to be a subject of discussion. Yet it seems to be a clear element of how communities are created that individual actions maintain the habits that create such a culture. If the individual actions change, so can the aggregate of all the cultural habits, if that change catches on with enough people.

I'd be happy to have someone point out some theorists who have been discussing these ideas to me, but I haven't discovered any yet.

And thanks to everyone who sent me support messages this weekend through my haze of Niagara Region wines. They were very much appreciated and I'll get back to you individually soon.

St. Catharine's Ontario. Sunny and bright as the wines it produces, not to be confused with other liquids of the same colour, no matter how much you may have had of the proper liquid that night.

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