Saturday, 31 March 2007

Twenty Years Ago

3-31-87 Tuesday. I’ve begun reading Alan White’s book Rights [Alan R. White, Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984); I finished reading this book on 3 April 1987], and I must say that I’m impressed by his analyses and the power of his reasoning. A few years ago, White wrote an article entitled “Conceptual Analysis” for an anthology. [Alan R. White, “Conceptual Analysis,” chap. 5 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975), 103-17.] I asked my students to read it earlier this semester and then spent a couple of days discussing it. White, like me, thinks that philosophy consists primarily (if not exclusively) in conceptual analysis. In this book, he takes up many of the issues that have surrounded rights, such as the claim that for every right there is a correlative duty, and vice versa. White demolishes this claim by coming up with counterexamples. He also denies other necessary connections, such as that between rights and interests, that between rights and claims, and that between rights and liberties. I truly enjoy this sort of analysis. But I must admit that it’s discouraging to see so much destruction and so little construction. The only positive claim to emerge so far is that rights are entitlements of some sort. White, however, denies at the beginning of the book that he will argue either (1) that there are rights, or (2) that we should have certain rights. He leaves those tasks for others.

Deconstructing Lakoff

Do not confuse deconstruction with destruction. While they have something in common, they have an important difference. To destroy a thing is to pull or break it down; to demolish it; to make it useless. To deconstruct a thing is to take it apart for examination, after which it can be put back together (reconstructed). Have you ever seen a person deconstructed? If not, see here.


No, not Republicans. Pachyderms. One of the readers of my Animal Ethics blog brought this to my attention. Just passing it on for those of you who like nature programming (as I do).

Addendum: While I’m on the topic of animal ethics, I’d like to direct your attention to Mylan Engel’s latest post at our blog.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

David Brooks says that Republicans have lost touch with independent voters and attributes this loss of confidence to the party’s “liberty vs. power” approach. He advises a “security leads to freedom” paradigm.

But this change will not convince many voters, because without a sense of equality, there can be neither security nor freedom.

The electorate understands that the G.O.P. cannot meet its need for equality, economic and civil, because it represents the economically privileged at the expense of the majority.

The Bush policies have eroded the middle class’s sense of equality. As this becomes more obvious, the Republicans’ popularity will sink further. The question now is: Can the Democratic Party return to its New Deal roots?

Thomas M. Stephens
Columbus, Ohio, March 30, 2007

Note from KBJ: Equality of what? The Republican Party is committed to equality of opportunity, which is the only sort of equality that is compatible with a free society. Equality of resources, equality of income, equality of wealth, and equality of outcomes are incompatible with a free society. They are also incompatible with prosperity, as every student of history knows.


A man travels to Spain and goes to a Madrid restaurant for a late dinner. He or­ders the house special and is brought a plate with potatoes, corn, and two large meaty objects. “What’s this?” he asks. “Cojones, senor,” the waiter replies. “What are cojon­es?” the man asks. “Cojones,” the waiter explains, “are tes­ti­cles of the bull who lost at the arena this afternoon.” At first the man is disgusted; but, being the adventurous type, he decides to try this local delicacy. To his amazement, it is quite deli­cious. In fact, it is so good that he decides to come back the next night and order it again. This time, the waiter brings out the plate, but the meaty objects are much smaller. “What’s this?” he asks the waiter. “Cojones, senor.” “No, no,” the man objects, “I had cojones yesterday and they were much big­ger than these.” “Sen­or,” the waiter explains, “the bull does not always lose.”

Robert P. George on Reasons

Reasons are the currency of debate. In the absence of reasons, there is only conflict.

(Robert P. George, “Correspondence,” First Things [February 2007]: 5-7, at 6)

A Year Ago



I just fired up the computer for the day and saw that no comments have been submitted for my approval. Something is obviously wrong, and two people have told me by e-mail that they got error messages when they tried to post comments. I called BlueHost (my blog host) a few minutes ago and explained what’s going on. A technician is trying to solve the problem. Please keep trying to post comments; eventually we’ll get it working again.

Addendum: Moments ago, I received a comment for this post, which I approved. It appears to be from the technician. To the technician: Thanks!

Friday, 30 March 2007

Good Night

I leave you this fine evening with a column by Charles Krauthammer. By the way, if you submitted a comment today and haven’t seen it, it’s not my fault. For some reason, only one comment came in for my approval. There must be something wrong with BlueHost, which hosts my blog. I have no idea whether there is a backlog of comments waiting to come in or whether they’ve disappeared into the void.

Carl Cohen on White Guilt

As a defense of race preference, the alleged compelling need for racial diversity is entirely without merit. That defense has been advanced and accepted only because there is no other way, under the U. S. Constitution, to rescue the drive to expiate white guilt. We are told repeatedly, by people who seem not to fear embarrassing themselves, that diversity is the very heart of educational excellence. The compensatory payments by race that cannot otherwise be defended are saved by a dreadful argument.

That the diversity defense is no more than a stratagem is made manifest by the history of this controversy. Diversity was hardly ever mentioned until the compensatory justification was thrown out by the courts. The evidence in the Michigan cases (Grutter and Gratz) exposes and highlights the ruse. If a “critical mass” of minority students (what was claimed to be a compelling need) in the black minority requires, let us say, 50 blacks among the entering law school class, how can it be that only 25 are needed for a critical mass of Hispanics? And only five for a critical mass of Native Americans! I wish not to offend, President Coleman, but candor compels the admission that all our talk about using preference to achieve a “critical mass” of students in each minority for the sake of educational excellence is—in the words of four members of our Supreme Court—a “sham.” It is a device, the only device available with which we can continue to satisfy the inner compulsions of white guilt.

(Carl Cohen, “Open Letter to the President of My University,” Academic Questions 19 [fall 2006]: 78-82, at 80-1 [italics in original])


Here are my basketball predictions from 11 March. As you can see, I predicted that Florida would beat Ohio State in the title game. That could still happen. But let me make a fresh set of predictions, based on actual matchups and in light of what has occurred thus far in the tournament. I think Georgetown will beat Ohio State handily. The Hoyas are thoroughly energized by their overtime victory over North Carolina. I also think that UCLA will beat Florida. It will be East versus West in the title game Monday night, with West winning. By the way, Monday evening is going to be insanely busy. I will have to watch both 24 (damn you, Will) and the basketball game starting at eight o’clock. At nine, when 24 ends, I will have to flip back and forth between the basketball game and the season opener for my adopted Texas Rangers. By ten o’clock, baseball will have my undivided attention. Life begins anew with each baseball season.

Twenty Years Ago

3-30-87 This morning I lectured on naturalism, including Roderick Firth’s ideal-observer theory. I confessed to the students that I’ve always been suspicious of Firth’s theory, and now I have good reason to reject it. Firth, in effect, creates a secular god, then asks: In what things would this being, this ideal observer with properties of disinterestedness, omniscience, and dispassionateness, be positively interested? Whatever the ideal observer is positively interested in, he says, is good. We’re just about done with [Fred] Feldman’s book [Introductory Ethics (1978)], so I told the students to begin reading Joel Feinberg’s Social Philosophy [1973] for Monday. After class, I met with four students to discuss their respective term papers. The papers are due Friday, and many students, apparently, have waited until the last week to get to work. That’s bad. I told them several weeks ago to start thinking about a topic and putting thoughts to paper.

The college basketball season is over. Indiana [the Hoosiers] defeated Syracuse [the Orangemen] by one point to win the crown, its third since 1976. I was disappointed, because I predicted that Syracuse would win the title and do not like Indiana’s authoritarian coach, Bobby Knight. But it was a close, exciting game, so I really can’t complain. It’s too bad that one of these teams had to lose. Indiana players and fans can relish the moment forever, while Syracuse players and fans will always have to live with the failure. As far as my wagers with Paul Baker are concerned, I lost six dollars on the entire tournament. There were sixty-three games. We agreed on the outcome of forty-two of them, which means that there were twenty-one games “up for grabs.” On six of them, both of us were wrong; on another six, I was right and Paul was wrong; and on another nine, Paul was right and I was wrong. Paul did much better at the beginning of the tournament, while I did much better at the end. In fact, I correctly predicted three of the four semifinalists and both of the finalists. But I missed the championship game. My overall percentage was .650, while Paul’s was .698. Now it’s on to baseball! [Indiana has reached the title game only once in the past 20 years, losing to the Maryland Terrapins in 2002. Syracuse has reached the title game twice in the past 20 years, losing to the Kentucky Wildcats in 1996 and beating the Kansas Jayhawks in 2003. Bobby Knight is now the coach of Texas Tech University.]

Safe Motoring

Here is a New York Times story about Honda’s emphasis on safety. I like my new Accord, although I’ve driven it only 214 miles in five weeks.

The Mind and the Soul

If there can be feminist philosophy and Marxian economics, why can’t there be Christian psychology?

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