Ethically Speaking: Voice and Values in Modern Scottish Writing

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He laments the eventual destruction of his neighborhood displaced by a Southern Pacific rail yard , but he also makes fun of his relatives for their adherence to premodern Mexican ways. North Africa specialists were as fooled as anyone else.

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This is a danger often confronted by successful hoaxers. At some point, there is a demand to produce a body. It is an anti-multicultural book. When the hoax was revealed, it turned out to be a time bomb, too. The book was praised by critics who knew something about Native American culture, sold at gift shops on Indian reservations, and taught in high schools and colleges.

By then, Asa Carter was dead, but his book had sold more than half a million copies. It seems that before Asa became Forrest Carter his career had fallen apart and he had developed a drinking problem. So he had decided to turn himself into a Cherokee. He performed a new identity. The author was a Guinean writer named Camara Laye, and the story is set in Africa.

It was received as a leading work in African literature. Laye evidently agreed to go along, and put his name to it. Intercultural hoaxes are aimed at readers who are curious about worlds they have little contact with, and who are therefore easily duped. Some nineteenth-century American slave narratives, for example, were written by whites. They were published in order to meet a demand for stories about life in the South which there were not enough ex-slaves around to satisfy.

But they were good enough for readers whose conception of the evils of slavery they seemed to confirm. What may seem harder to account for is that the hoaxes are rarely detected by people who are from those communities or know something about them. They want quality works coming out of their cultures.

Charles Dickens guessed that George Eliot was a woman, but no one else seems to have. After you know, of course, the deception can seem blatant. It seems, in fact, like what it is: a fictional re-creation of life in East L.

The Plagiarist’s Tale

But Daniel James surely knew that such a book would not have received an excited review in the Times. James would have been happy to go on writing as Danny Santiago forever and, in fact, he tried to. Their own tastes in poetry were somewhat traditional, and they considered the modernist poetry Harris was publishing to be facile and pretentious. Harris took the bait. He was knocked out by the poems and eager to publish them, not least because the author was an unknown.

He wrote back asking for more. These were duly published in Angry Penguins in But their hoax began to fray.

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One writer suggested that Ern Malley was really Harris himself, prompting Harris to hire a detective to make inquiries at the address on the letter from Ethel Malley. No one there had ever heard of her. Stewart and McAuley decided that this was the moment to blow it all up, and they gave their story to a mass-circulation Australian paper that could be counted on not to paint an embarrassment to the avant-garde in shades of gray.

The world press took up the line: Ern Malley had exposed the fraudulence of literary modernism. Adding injury to insult, Harris was visited by policemen and charged with publishing obscene, immoral, and indecent matter. Absurdly, Harris had to argue in court for the literary merit of the Malley poems—to explain to the magistrate the meaning of phrases that were intended as nonsense—and he was convicted of indecency.

Angry Penguins could no longer be published in South Australia, and the magazine folded soon afterward. Harris was a good sport about the affair, but his career never recovered. The Malley hoax is said to have set back the modernist movement in Australia several decades.

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To the end, Harris insisted that the Ern Malley poems really were good poems, and that his editorial judgment was correct. And, over the years, there have been writers who agreed. Are hoaxes unethical? Of course they are. At a minimum, a book is being marketed under false pretenses. And some hoaxes, like the Ern Malley hoax, are intended to damage the reputations of other people. Are hoaxes illegal? Not per se, but a cloud of lawsuits does hang over the phenomenon.

Not many wanted their money back: the total refunds came to less than thirty thousand dollars—a victory for the higher-truth defense. A judge awarded her and a collaborator thirty-two million dollars. The award was set aside after it emerged that Defonseca was a Belgian Catholic who spent the war years in school.

Exposed hoaxes often have a lucrative zombie afterlife. They just go on being published.

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Some hoaxers like to boast about how easy it was to pull off, and this may be the key to what is truly scandalous about them. If that is so, they created a diabolically intricate deception. The Malley poems make extremely subtle allusions to a dozen poets, from Shakespeare to T. The second letter from Ethel Malley, which really is a brilliant forgery, took Stewart and McAuley several weeks to compose, however.

The hoaxers are not completely wrong about this. There is just something a little off about them, places where the author seems to have overreached, or had a lapse of taste, or misunderstood a post-structuralist concept. To a sympathetic editor, these missteps are signs of genuineness: the writer is new to the business but is really trying. It shows, once again, the importance of being earnest. When Ashbery taught at Brooklyn College, he used to give an exam to his creative-writing students which printed side by side, without attribution, a poem by the modernist poet Geoffrey Hill and a poem by Ern Malley.

If we pick up a novel about life in the barrio, or a book by a Tibetan monk, or an avant-garde literary magazine, we know what we expect to find. We are complicit in the attempt to get us to believe because we already want to believe. Writing is a weak medium. It has to rely on readers bringing a lot of preconceptions to the encounter, which is why it is so easily exploited. Yes, in a sense. Literature is a game with language, and hoaxing alerts us to the fact that the rules are not written down anywhere—in the same way that someone who goes barefoot to a wedding alerts us to the fact that there are actually no regulations governing these things.

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Those acts draw our attention to the thinness of the social fabric by tearing a little piece of it. Literary hoaxes appeal to critics and theorists because they expose the fragility of the norms of reading. If it is a game, then, does it really matter who wrote it? Both arguments are provocations. Mackie defends a form of second-order metaethical skepticism or relativism in the first chapter, only to devote the rest of the book to the articulation of a substantive theory of first-order Utilitarianism.

Metaethical positions would appear then to underdetermine normative theories, perhaps in the same way that normative theories themselves underdetermine applied ethical stances for example, two equally committed Utilitarians can nonetheless disagree about the moral permissibility of eating meat. Notable exceptions to this tendency—that is, metaethical naturalists who are also first-order deontologists —include Alan Gewirth and Michael Boylan ; For critical responses to these positions, see Beyleveld , Steigleder , Spence , and Gordon Other philosophers envision the connection between metaethics and more concrete moral theorizing in much more intimate ways.

Nicholas Sturgeon has claimed that the first-order belief in moral fallibility must be grounded in some second-order metaethical view. And David Wiggins has suggested that metaethical questions about the ultimate foundation and justification of basic moral beliefs may have deep existential implications for how humans view the question of the meaning of life.

The metaethical question of whether or not moral values are cross-culturally universal would seem to have important implications for how foreign practices are morally evaluated at the first-order level.

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In particular, metaethical relativism the view that there are no universal or objective moral values has been viewed as highly loaded politically and psychologically. Proponents of such relativism often appeal to the alleged open-mindedness and tolerance about first-order moral differences that their second-order metaethical view would seem to support. See sections five and eight below for a more detailed discussion of the psychological and political dimensions of metaethics, respectively.

The metaethical view that moral statements similarly express truth-apt beliefs about the world is known as cognitivism. Cognitivism would seem to be the default view of our moral discourse given the apparent structure that such discourse appears to have. Indeed, if cognitivism were not true— such that moral sentences were expressing something other than truth-apt propositions—then it would seem to be difficult to account for why we nonetheless are able to make logical inferences from one moral sentence to another.

For instance, consider the following argument:. This argument seems to be a valid application of the logical rule known as modus ponens. Yet, logical rules such as modus ponens operate only on truth-apt propositions. Thus, because we seem to be able to legitimately apply such a rule in the example above, such moral sentences must be truth-apt. Since this homonymy would seem to threaten to undermine the grammatical structure of moral discourse, non-cognitivism must be rejected.

Despite this argument about the surface appearance of cognitivism, however, numerous metaethicists have rejected the view that moral sentences ultimately express beliefs about the world. A historically influential forerunner of the alternate theory of non-cognitivism can be found in the moral writings of David Hume , who famously argued that moral distinctions are not derived from reason, but instead represent emotional responses.

As such, moral sentences express not beliefs which may be true or false, but desires or feelings which are neither true nor false. This Humean position was renewed in twentieth-century metaethics by the observation that not only are moral disputes often heavily affect-laden in a way many other factual disputes are not, but also that the kind of facts which would apparently be necessary to accommodate true moral beliefs would have to be very strange sorts of entities.

Specifically, the worry is that, whereas we can appeal to standards of empirical verification or falsification to adjudicate when our non-moral beliefs are true or false, no such standards seem applicable in the moral sphere, since we cannot literally point to moral goodness in the way we can literally point to cats on mats.

In response to this apparent disanalogy between moral and non-moral statements, many metaethicists embraced a sort of neo-Humean non-cognitivism, according to which moral statements express non-truth-apt desires or feelings. Hare similarly analyzed moral utterances as containing both descriptive truth-apt as well as ineliminably prescriptive elements, such that genuinely asserting, for instance, that murder is wrong involves a concomitant emotional endorsement of not murdering.

Drawing on the work of ordinary-language philosophers such as J. Thus, Alan Gibbard defends norm-expressivism , according to which moral statements express commitments not to idiosyncratic personal feelings, but instead to the particular and, for Gibbard, evolutionarily adaptive cultural mores that enable communication and social coordination.

Non-cognitivists have also attempted to address the Frege-Geach Problem discussed above, by specifying how the expression of attitudes functions in moral discourse.