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!