Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Charity vs. Taxation

I recommend this heuristic in getting people to think about requiring taxation for their favorite causes.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Why Should You Trust Philosophers?

A group of fifteen philosophers and bioethicists gathered in Switzerland and came up with this document outlining their public policy proposal to severely limit doctors being allowed to opt out of certain procedures and practices which violate their conscience (some among the group being notorious advocates of infanticide). The statement is called "Consensus Statement on Conscientious Objection in Healthcare."

My question is a simple one: why should we trust them?  The document does not outline any detailed arguments, it simply lists their recommendations and (implicitly) asks us to take their word for it--that is, the word of the consensus of fifteen philosophers.

But we shouldn't take their word for it without either knowing a lot more about each of them or their arguments.  Here is why:

1. Whatever expertise philosophers have is over matters wherein there is (a) rational disagreement, (b) no consensus among philosophers, or (c) both.  This follows from the nature of philosophy.
2. This being the case, if (e.g.) fifteen philosophers agree about some proposition p, there will be c.fifteen who disagree about p (or at least there will either be rational disagreement, no consensus, or both about p).
3. If 2 is the case, no one should take any fifteen philosophers' testimonies (without additional knowledge) as justification about something of which they claim to be experts. For that matter, one has reason for doubt about the testimonysince the philosophers have delusions of grandeur, (implicitly) asking the public to take their word for something about which there is rational disagreement, no consensus, or both.
4. ...therefore, etc., this document is rubbish as a matter of public evidence for shaping public policy.  At best it is simply a political document.

But don't take my word for it.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Canons of Conservatism

1. Belief that a divine intent rules society as well as conscience, forging an eternal chain of right and duty which links great and obscure, living and dead.  Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems.  A narrow rationality, what Coleridge calls the Understanding, cannot of itself satisfy human needs....Politics is the art of apprehending and applying the Justice which is above nature.
2. Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of traditional life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity and equalitarianism and utilitarian aims of most radical systems....
3. Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes.  The only true equality is moral equality; all other attempts at levelling lead to despair, if enforced by positive legislation.  Society longs for leadership, and if a people destroy natural distinctions among men, presently Buonaparte fills the vacuum.
4. Persuasion that property and freedom are inseparably connected, and that economic levelling is not economic progress.  Separate property from private possession, and liberty is erased.  
5. Faith in prescription and distrust of "sophisters and calculators."  Man must put control upon his will and appetite, for conservatives know man to be governed more by emotion than by reason.  Tradition and sound prejudice provide checks upon man's anarchic impulse.
6. Recognition that change and reform are not identical, and that innovation is a devouring conflagration more often than it is a torch of progress.  Society must alter, for slow change is the means of its conservation, like the human body's perpetual renewal....
     ~Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind (BN Publishing, 2008: 7-8)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Bad Strategy Against Theological Voluntarism

Makes sense to me
Let's say that theological voluntarism is the view that God's will plays a significant role in matters moral.  (That's not very precise, but there aren't any great definitions in the offing and this is good enough for my purposes).

A common objection is what we might call the "anything goes" objection.  The idea is that if theological voluntarism were true, then God could make it the case that raping babies is morally permissible and good by commanding it, that punching your grandma in the face is a daily obligation, that microwaving cats (or better--dogs) is an act of justice, and so forth.  But of course such acts are wrong--and necessarily so, some think--thus there must be something wrong with theological voluntarism.

To see why this is a bad strategy for objecting to theological voluntarism consider the following propositions:

1. If theological voluntarism were true, then raping a baby might be permissible.
2. If Kant's Categorical Imperative were true, then raping a baby might be permissible.
3. If J.S. Mill's Greatest Happiness Principle were true, then raping a baby might be permissible.
4. If moral relativism were true, then raping a baby might be permissible.

Now consider the following argument against TV and a parity argument against Kant's CI:

1. If TV were true, then raping babies might be permissible.
2. But raping babies can't be permissible.
3. Thus TV is false.

Now consider this parallel:
4. If Kant's CI were true, then raping babies might be permissible.
5. But raping babies can't be permissible.
6. Thus Kant's CI is false.

The questions that need asking are which principle or normative theory is true in the first place and which are contradictory with raping babies being permissible?  (Is 1 true or is 4?)  What the objector to theological voluntarism needs to show is that God could or would will that babies be raped, just as the objector to Kant's CI needs to show that raping babies is inconsistent with the CI.  For it does not obviously follow that if morality is grounded in God's will that there's a possible world (or close possible world) where God wills the raping of babies.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

School: Don't Say "Boys" or "Girls"

"WSOC-TV is reporting a North Carolina school system presentation to principals and counselors is recommending that kids are not referred to as boys and girls, but instead as scholars and students."

Items of particular interest (I'm leaving out a lot):
Page 9: Gender Unicorn
Page 38: Official school records record the student's biological sex but administrators and teachers must use identity pronouns, though occasional slips might occur.  Intentional refusal not to refer to the students identified gender is a violation of the regulation.
Page 48: Don't address students as "boys" and "girls."  Don't line up students [e.g. bathroom breaks] by boys and girls.  Instead alphabetize or by birth month or favorite color.
Page 50: Remember the importance of indoctrinating helping all students to pretend that a student is what he/she/ze feels "feel inclusive"
Page 54: ...unless it's an athletic event in which case the student is not treated according to the gender on the birth certificate [!]

GSA: Genetic Sexual Attraction

Mother and adult son defend their monogamous, loving, incestuous relationship against discriminatory law.

“True love can do anything. This whole case is about whether I have the right to love somebody and I sure as hell have the right to love Monica. You can’t tell me who to love, who not to love.”

The mother and son said they hope their story will raise awareness of Genetic Sexual Attraction (GSA).

Return of Ahmed the Clock Boy

He's back! Our old friend the "inventor" who took the guts out of a clock and put it in a case to look like a bomb (his "invention"), now seeking to earn 15 million (or thereabouts) the old fashioned way--by inventing a lawsuit.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

10 Ways You Can Reject Your White Privilege

From the United Church of Christ:
10.  Recognize that you're still racist.  No matter what.

 Okay, let's do it. 

 You go first.