Friday, 29 June 2007


Here is my latest post at Animal Ethics.

W. D. Ross (1877-1971) on the Self-Evidence of (Certain) Moral Convictions

I should make it plain at this stage that I am assuming the correctness of some of our main convictions as to prima facie duties, or, more strictly, am claiming that we know them to be true. To me it seems as self-evident as anything could be, that to make a promise, for instance, is to create a moral claim on us in someone else. Many readers will perhaps say that they do not know this to be true. If so, I certainly cannot prove it to them; I can only ask them to reflect again, in the hope that they will ultimately agree that they also know it to be true. The main moral convictions of the plain man seem to me to be, not opinions which it is for philosophy to prove or disprove, but knowledge from the start; and in my own case I seem to find little difficulty in distinguishing these essential convictions from other moral convictions which I also have, which are merely fallible opinions based on an imperfect study of the working for good or evil of certain institutions or types of action.

(W. D. Ross, The Right and the Good [1930; repr., Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 1988], 20-1n [italics in original])

Note from KBJ: There are two legitimate uses of “distinguishing.” One is exemplified in this quotation from Ross: “distinguishing A from B.” The other is “distinguishing between A and B.” The expression “distinguishing A and B” is illegitimate.

Best of the Web Today



Hillary Clinton is in trouble. More than half the respondents in a poll said they would not vote for her. Does anyone (besides Bill and Chelsea—and I have my doubts about Bill) like her? She seems to have alienated everyone, including feminists! But keep in mind that it’s early. If Hillary is the Democrat nominee, progressives—even moonbats such as Michael Moore and Paul Krugman—will rally around her, if only to prevent another Republican from being elected. The same is true on the Republican side. I vastly prefer Fred Thompson to Rudy Giuliani, but I’d vote for Rudy over Hillary if it came down to it. (My friend Peg will be glad to hear that.) The poll also shows that Mitt Romney is in trouble. It’s too bad that Mitt is a Mormon, for he would otherwise be an attractive candidate. Maybe it’s not too late for him to convert to Christianity. It wouldn’t be a death-bed conversion, the aim of which is to get to heaven. It would be a campaign conversion, the aim of which is to get to the Oval Office (the secular equivalent of heaven). If God saves those who convert on their death beds, maybe voters will “save” a candidate who converts to their religion just prior to an election. What do you think?

From the Mailbag


I hope this story about Romney’s treatment of the family dog is not true. I’m a catholic Christian who would have no problems with a Mormon as president. However, mistreating dogs raises a red flag.

I remember the big news was President Johnson picking up his dogs by the ears. I didn’t (and don’t) know enough about the breed he had to know whether that was benign or not and in any case that happened before I could vote.



Curro Ergo Sum

Big news in the world of distance running. Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie broke two world records in the same race Wednesday in the Czech Republic. His goal was to break the world hour record of 13.11 miles. He covered 13.22 miles. He ran 184 meters farther than the previous record holder, Mexican Arturo Barrios, who had held the record since March 1991. Along the way, Gebrselassie broke the world 20-kilometer record with a time of 56:25.98. These are the 23d and 24th world records broken by Gebrselassie (now 34 years old) during his distinguished career. In case you’re wondering, Gebrselassie’s mile pace during the record-breaking hour run was 4:32.18. See here for the story.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “On Abortion, Giuliani Faces a Potential Fall From Catholic Grace” (news article, June 25):

Rudolph W. Giuliani and other Catholic politicians who say they oppose abortion but do not wish to impose that view on the entire polity have support in Catholic teaching.

Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas both favored legalization of prostitution even though they thought prostitution evil. Their thinking was that “greater evils” would result if prostitution were banned and this outlet for aberrant sexual energy were unavailable.

In so doing, St. Thomas Aquinas said, the “wise legislator” is imitating God who, though all powerful and supremely good, tolerates certain evils lest greater evils ensue.

Similarly, today legislators who truly think abortion immoral could vote to keep it legal since greater evils, multiple deaths of women (especially poor women) from botched abortions as seen before Roe v. Wade, would follow.

Catholic bishops, even though they are pastors and administrators and not professional theologians, should know this and cease harassing Catholic candidates, thus making Catholic candidates less electable.

Daniel C. Maguire
Milwaukee, June 25, 2007
The writer is a professor of moral theology at Marquette University.

Note from KBJ: This is a weak analogy. Nobody is harmed by prostitution. An innocent life is snuffed out in abortion.

A Year Ago


Thursday, 28 June 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a New York Times story by Linda Greenhouse. We are getting closer to the ideal of a colorblind Constitution. May we get there before I die.

Billy Idol

If you like guitar, you like Billy Idol. His songs have stood the test of time. I listened to them when I lived in Tucson (1983-1988), often while riding my bike in the desert. (I rode thousands of miles in the desert, by myself, in scorching heat.) Check out “White Wedding,” “Rebel Yell,” “Dancing with Myself,” “Eyes Without a Face,” “Catch My Fall,” “Cradle of Love,” and “Flesh for Fantasy.” Who has the best sneer: Billy or Elvis?

Addendum: One more song this evening. Genesis is one of my favorite bands of all time, and this is one of my favorite songs. Things get interesting at 7:03 into the song.

Addendum 2: Okay, one more. I promise! Until this evening, I had never seen the video of this Genesis song, which I have heard many times. (I own the album on compact disc.) It’s every bit as irreverent (and funny) as I imagined. Don’t be offended if you’re a Christian. The song pokes fun at money-grubbing televangelists, not the Christian faith. Even Jesus would be appalled by these predators.

The Messenger and the Message

According to John McIntyre, the John Edwards campaign for the presidency is imploding. I wonder why. Could it be that there is dissonance between his message and his life? Edwards is running around the country stirring up envy and resentment. He wants poor people to think they’re poor because . . . there are rich people. But if that’s the case, then Edwards himself is a cause of poverty, for he lives like a king. Have you seen his house? Did you hear about his $400 haircuts? I get 20 haircuts for $400, and that includes a generous tip. I don’t begrudge Edwards his wealth. He earned it, fair and square (so far as I know). He played by the rules, studied hard, worked hard, and made a fortune. That’s the American way. There’s something unseemly about a self-made man railing against the wealthy. Would poor people fare better in a society in which disparities in wealth were not allowed? Edwards doesn’t address that question, perhaps because he knows the answer will not serve him well.

Addendum: Read this. Elizabeth Edwards, John’s wife, said, in reference to homosexual “marriage,” “I don’t know why someone else’s marriage has anything to do with me.” This is an interesting principle. Would she say the same about a racially motivated lynching in Alabama? That doesn’t have anything to do with her. The beheading of a journalist in Pakistan? That doesn’t have anything to do with her. Pollution by a corporation in Montana? That doesn’t have anything to do with her. Does she have no sense of justice, or is it all about her?

Addendum 2: Ann Coulter replies to the Edwards tag team here. Coulter may have an acerbic style, but there is no doubt about her intelligence. The thing I most appreciate about her is her wit.

Justice Thomas

This Los Angeles Times columnist seems surprised that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has a mind of his own. Is he surprised that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has a mind of her own? That John Paul Stevens has a mind of his own?

Richard John Neuhaus on the Task of the University

A prominent professor at an Ivy League school recently wrote on the op-ed page of the New York Times that he tells his students that, “if they are not more confused and uncertain at the end of my courses than they were at the beginning, I have been a failure.” Imagine that: a well-credentialed and tenured grown-up whose purpose in life is to increase confusion and uncertainty in the minds of undergraduates.

It seems to me that the great majority of young people entering college are sufficiently confused and uncertain as it is. The idea that it is the task of the university to debunk the certitudes and orthodoxies of young people is quite wrongheaded—unless, of course, one means by certitudes and orthodoxies the intellectual incoherence and mindless relativism that the young imbibe from the general culture. The task of the university is to form and inform minds by arousing curiosity about, as Matthew Arnold put it, the best that has been thought and said. The goal of the Christian university is to arouse and direct such curiosity about the unparalleled synthesis of Athens and Jerusalem, of faith and reason, that is the Christian intellectual tradition. Faith and reason, John Paul said in his encyclical Fides et Ratio, are the two wings by which the mind rises toward wisdom. The goal of the Christian university is wisdom. This is as true of those parts of the university that are most in danger of becoming merely trade schools as it is of the humanities and arts.

(Richard John Neuhaus, “A University of a Particular Kind,” First Things [April 2007]: 31-5, at 33)


If this isn’t the best album ever made, then I’m a crocodile‘s sister.

From the Mailbag

Mr. Burgess-Jackson,

I am a fan of your blog, and have been a loyal reader for over a year now. I hope this gives me some credibility when I say that there is another blog that I read that I think you would really enjoy. The author, Ben Bateman, is not the most frequent poster, but his posts are so well thought out and well written that he really deserves a wider readership than he currently enjoys. Disclaimer: I do not know the author, and only discovered him myself because he occasionally comments on another blog I frequent. I want more people to read his work because it is just that good. Most of what he writes is of publishable quality.

Bateman writes about politics, philosophy, language, religion (including “secular religion”), conservatism, and “the Left,” among other things. Often he writes in a manner that makes him sound like a Christian, but he has stated a few times that he does not really believe in God. Like you, he seems to be a supporter of religion even when he does not share it (though his perspective on religion is probably a bit different).

I really hope you take a look. I promise that it will be worth your time. The link is here.