• Where I am:

Jean-Pierre Cléro, Calcul moral ou ....

ID VI.1.r2


Jean-Pierre Cléro, Calcul moral ou comment raisonner en éthique?
Paris: Armand Colin, 2011. 544 pp. $69.95.
Boryana Angelova (National Sports Academy, Sofia)

Jean-Pierre Cléro’s Calcul moral ou comment
raisonner en éthique?, dedicated to moral philosophy, could be
characterized as a fundamental work because it provides
many new ideas and puts forward many new questions
about ethics, its relation with moral philosophy, nd the meanings of
these terms. Ethics and morality have different connotations in the fields of
medicine and justice. Their origins are different (ethics is a Greek word, morality
is a Latin one), so they are “naturally” separated yet always related:
they were separated by Kant, whereas during the Renaissance their imbrication
was deeper. This raises some problems about their meaning and aims,
about their development in philosophical thought over the centuries. Examples,
provided in the book, are the philosophies of Spinoza and Pascal. Cléro
explains them and elaborates them in the new fields of contemporary ethics.
Important starting points, as Cléro shows, are the development of the modern
State and the changes concerning the meaning of morality. Following
upon these, morality has been legalized by the church, the State and the judiciary;
nowadays in the modern State, in contemporary society, such a
process is impossible because of new values, freedoms and laws. In the
modern State, we cannot say what is moral and what is not; so we need a
new methodology and approach to ethics – a way to calculate or to cure our
contemporary moral. “Calcul” is a French word meaning calculation and
gallstone, and its usage in the title is not accidental; according to Cléro there
are many approaches to contemporary “sick” morality and one of them is
mathematics, which assists in judgment in medicine. Medicine in the modern
State faces the same problems that morality does. There is a real need
for a juridical decision on moral problems; however, the decision cannot be
only juridical as it first needs to employ the methods of philosophy and
mathematics and, only after these, of law.
Another important concept which Cléro uses is the meaning of utilitarianism.
In contemporary society utilitarianism is a mainstream ideology,
everything is morally acceptable if useful, comfortable and “rational”; but
the utilitarian act does not always follow the utilitarian rule; the utilitarianism
of pleasure is not the same as the utilitarianism of desire... so even on
this level we need philosophical ethics to explain and debate morality.
Cléro spends a lot of time on terms and focuses on their explanation.
He gives not only their contemporary meaning but their significance down
the ages as well. By tracing meanings in this way the book provides an education
in philology, contributing not only to ethics but to philosophical history.
Cléro explains the meaning of “ethics,” “bioethics,” “medical ethics,”
etc., as they appeared chronologically. All pose a similar problem, one
which can be solved by philosophy – a philosophy that should remain critical.
As indicated above, however, to “critical philosophy:” in Kant's sense,
mathematical approaches need to be added.
Starting with his first chapter, Cléro focuses on the problem of argumentation
in ethics. This should be clear as it is in mathematics. However,
John Locke’s example of 2 + 3 = 5 cannot be used to explain complicated
contemporary moral questions. Cléro looks for answers in the philosophy of
Montesquieu and Rousseau as well. Can argumentation in ethics be as clear
as it is in mathematics? Cléro answers this and many other questions.
In the second chapter Cléro turns to the philosophical necessity of
managing the problems of medical ethics. He explains why bioethics and
medical ethics are utilitarian. Understanding utilitarianism is the new approach
to ethics. In this perspective, an important role is played by juridical
Jereymy Bentham, whom Cléro knows as a translator and as an analyst,
plays a major part in this. Included as well is a very interesting theory
of emotions which again proposes different approaches, and is increasingly
insistent from the perspective of a theory of fictions. In order to engage in a
patient construction of the theory of fictions, Cléro’s current research unfolds
on several levels and is part of a reflection on mathematical and physical
concepts which often have the status of fiction.
According to Cléro explanations and demonstrations are often done in
the mode of „as if,” a contention confirmed by his reading of Bentham. Bentham was a lawyer and his theory of fictions is partly a reflection on law: the
theory of fictions Cléro seeks thus gains a greater extension. The deepening
of John Stuart Mill’s system of logic and problem of induction is a necessary
and ongoing concern for Cléro.
Jean-Pierre Cléro is very much influenced by English philosophy, especially
Hume. He shows in his book that the foundation of the humanities
lies in the philosophy of the passions, but also that passions are logical fictions.
So he presents a new theory of fictions that is simultaneously deeply
logical and historical, articulating several of our time’s fields of knowledge
and practices.
Another interesting point in the book concerns a possible theory of
play and efficacy. It is a mathematical game but it could be a political game
as well. Cléro develops a game theory that on the one hand treats the Second
World War and the Cold War, and on the other is concerned with the Kantian
critical philosophy and the analytical philosophy of G.E. Moore and
P.H. Sedgwick – or maybe this is not analytical philosophy but a new philosophy
of utilitarianism?
Jean-Pierre Cléro asks many questions and provides the answers himself,
always including a historical background and new perspectives as well.
One of the many questions he asks is about utilitarianism and liberalism. At
first sight they seem to be equivalent (this is discussed at length in contemporary
philosophy); yet Cléro finds that this is not exactly, naturally so.
Utilitarianism and liberalism are related but there are some differences as
well. Cléro’s comprehensive treatment of this and other issues elucidates
abstruse analytical philosophy and develops a “utilitarian philosophy” which
could be “useful” and equal to the new moral needs in the fields of medicine
and jurisprudence. The book is suitable for students and professionals in
philosophy, medicine, law, and for anyone interested in those topics, since
the answers are there for all to find.