Monday, 26 February 2007

Food for Thought

My friend Kevin from California sent a link to this interesting presentation. Among other things, it shows the importance of critical-thinking skills, which, by their nature, are not limited to particular times, places, topics, or bodies of information. The skills we philosophers teach—analysis, criticism, synthesis, argumentation—can be used anywhere, anytime, for any purpose. Think of it this way: Philosophy is a second-order discipline. It takes first-order disciplines (such as science and history), institutions (such as religion, art, morality, politics, and commerce), and professions (such as law, medicine, engineering, and theology) as its subject matter. I was born to be a philosopher. Nothing else could satisfy me.


Here is an interview with our next president.

R. M. Hare (1919-2002) on Universalizability

Offences against the thesis of universalizability are logical, not moral. If a person says ‘I ought to act in a certain way, but nobody else ought to act in that way in relevantly similar circumstances’, then, on my thesis, he is abusing the word ‘ought’; he is implicitly contradicting himself. But the logical offence here lies in the conjunction of two moral judgements, not in either one of them by itself. The thesis of universalizability does not render self-contradictory any single, logically simple, moral judgement, or even moral principle, which is not already self-contradictory without the thesis; all it does is to force people to choose between judgements which cannot both be asserted without self-contradiction. And so no moral judgement or principle of substance follows from the thesis alone. Furthermore, a person may act, on a number of different occasions, in different ways, even if the occasions are qualitatively identical, without it following from the thesis that all, or that any particular one, of his actions must be wrong. The thesis does not even forbid us to say that none of the man’s actions are wrong; for it is consistent with the thesis that the kinds of actions he did in the kind of situations described were morally indifferent. What the thesis does forbid us to do is to make different moral judgements about actions which we admit to be exactly or relevantly similar. The thesis tells us that this is to make two logically inconsistent judgements.

(R. M. Hare, Freedom and Reason [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963], 32-3 [italics in original])


Here is Joe Lieberman’s column about the war in Iraq. There are rumors floating about that Lieberman will join the Republicans, which will return control of the Senate to the Grand Old Party.

Addendum: My old friend (from graduate school) David Cortner says I’m wrong about Lieberman returning control of the Senate to the G.O.P. He sent this link.

Best of the Web Today


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Arguing that suspending habeas corpus should be limited to “cases of Rebellion or invasion” ignores the nature of the current war on terrorism, and is, in my opinion, seriously misguided.

In fact, one wonders whether Judge Judith W. Rogers, a dissenting judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, truly understands that we are fighting a nation-less, plainclothed, civilian-targeting, prisoner-beheading enemy.

Only the foolhardy ignore the nature of this enemy, much less afford them the right to be treated as American citizens.

Certainly our forefathers could not have foreseen the type of war that we are currently engaged in. Were they to envision this situation, I believe that they would not have forced us to treat these enemy combatants with the respect and dignity afforded United States citizens. They made the distinction between those who deserved these protections and those who didn’t.

Just ask the American public, which has an uncanny way of understanding when American rights are deserved and when they’re being given away indiscriminately.

Andrea Economos
Scarsdale, N.Y., Feb. 22, 2007

Immigration Watch

If you like my blog, you should thank Dr John J. Ray from Brisbane, Australia. John helped me get started way back in November 2003. If you dislike my blog, you should blame John. (Just kidding.) John is a prolific blogger. He has just started a blog entitled “Immigration Watch.” I will add it to the blogroll.


Here is the New York Times story about Stage 7 of the Tour of California, which was won by American Levi Leipheimer. The inaugural Tour of California (in 2006) was won by American Floyd Landis, who went on to win the Tour de France.

Addendum: I didn’t do very well in my predictions. I said that Tom Danielson would win the tour. He finished 66th, 11:31 behind his teammate Leipheimer. It was pretty clear from the start that his role was to help Leipheimer win. My second choice was Chris Horner, who finished 11th, 2:09 behind Leipheimer. Full results, together with a wrap-up and images, are here. I enjoyed watching the tour every day on Versus. I can’t wait until this year’s Tour de France.

Addendum 2: Big news from the cycling world. Jan Ullrich has announced his retirement from the sport. The New York Times story is in error in saying that Ullrich was runner-up five times to Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France. Ullrich did indeed finish second in the Tour five times, but only three of them were behind Armstrong. He finished second to Bjarne Riis in 1996 and to Marco Pantani in 1998. Ullrich won one Tour: in 1997. He was a great cyclist. Armstrong always said that Ullrich was the most talented rider in the peloton. I will always remember the great battles between the American and the German.

A Year Ago