Monday, 11 June 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a column by Harvard Law School graduate Carol Platt Liebau.


This year’s All-Star game is in San Francisco on Tuesday, 10 July. Barry Bonds will be there, no matter how poorly he’s performing. Don’t be surprised if he’s booed, even though it’s his home park. Here are the vote totals for the National League, through today. The worst injustice is that Colorado’s Todd Helton isn’t in the top five at first base. Helton is one of the best hitters (and fielders) in the game, but he plays out west and keeps his mouth shut, so nobody notices him. I believe he will end up in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.


Ronald Aronson, inspired by “the new atheists,” advocates the creation of a “coalition” of atheists and progressive theists (as though there could not be a conservative atheist). See here. By the way, has anyone noticed that of the four best-selling atheists—Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens—only one (Dennett) has philosophical credentials? As if this weren’t bad enough, Dennett tries to explain theism rather than justify atheism, which means he is acting in a nonphilosophical capacity. (There are two types of explanation. Scientific explanations seek to explain why such and such is the case. Philosophical explanations, as Robert Nozick pointed out in his book of that name, seek to explain how such and such can be the case, given so and so. Science tries to explain the actual. Philosophy tries to explain the possible.) Philosophers make their living constructing, analyzing, and criticizing arguments for and against such things as the existence of God. There is an entire field of philosophy, which I teach (and to which I have contributed), known as philosophy of religion. Why anyone would read amateurs, when there is so much serious, professional literature on theism, is beyond me.

The Sopranos

As I said the other day, I haven’t seen The Sopranos. I don’t even know whether I get the channel it’s on. One of my readers, Dave, just sent a link to his blog post about the show, which he says “embodies conservative Aristotelian ethics.” That gets me to wondering: Is there a television series that embodies utilitarian ethics? Egoistic ethics? Kantian ethics? Contractarian ethics? Feminist ethics? Does Star Trek embody a particular ethic? I’m afraid I haven’t seen a single episode of that series, either.


Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Dauphiné Libéré, won by German Heinrich Haussler.

All Fred, All the Time

George Will weighs in on Fred Thompson.

Best of the Web Today

Here. (Still no mention of immigration.)

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

This line of reasoning also helps to explain why we recognize certain duties towards both men and animals, but certain others towards men only. For example, nobody would be thought to be oppressing animals because he did not allow them self-government; but, on the other hand, it is generally thought to be wrong to torture animals for fun. Now why is it that we do not acknowledge a duty to accord animals self-government? It is simply because we think that there is a real and relevant difference between men and animals in this respect. We can say ‘If I were turned into an animal, I should stop having any desire for political liberty, and therefore the lack of it would be no hardship to me’. It is possible to say this even of men in certain stages of development. Nobody thinks that children ought to have complete political liberty; and most people recognize that it would be foolish to introduce the more advanced kinds of political liberty all at once in backward countries, where people have not got to the stage of wanting it, and would not know what to do with it if they got it. So this mode of reasoning allows us to make the many distinctions that are necessary in assessing our obligations towards different kinds of people, and indeed of sentient beings. In all cases the principle is the same—am I prepared to accept a maxim which would allow this to be done to me, were I in the position of this man or animal, and capable of having only the experiences, desires, &c., of him or it?

(R. M. Hare, Freedom and Reason [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963], 222-3 [italics in original])

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Adam Cohen (Editorial Observer, June 3) disapproves of Justice Clarence Thomas’s jurisprudence, because in Mr. Cohen’s view it is indifferent to suffering and “harsh,” will make various institutions “less civilized” and “less fair,” and fails to respond to “moral truth.”

But a justice’s job under our Constitution is not to decree what is civilized or fair or even what is moral truth; it is to follow the law. Justice Thomas believes that the way to follow the law is to follow the text of legal documents, like the Constitution adopted by We the People and the laws passed by the legislators we have elected.

I suspect that many of Justice Thomas’s critics would be horrified if they thought that the Bush administration were ignoring the text of the Constitution or a federal law to advance what it viewed as a higher moral truth. Why do they think that another branch of government should do so?

Roger Clegg
President and General Counsel, Center for Equal Opportunity
Falls Church, Va., June 3, 2007

Note from KBJ: Isn’t it astonishing that people have to be reminded that judges are not legislators?

Social Engineering

The social engineers at The New York Times hate markets. They’re so damn messy! Someone needs to redistribute wealth so as to make it fit a pattern, preferably an egalitarian pattern in which nobody has more wealth than anyone else. By the way, hasn’t the Times been complaining ad nauseam about the growing income gap? Now it’s complaining that the income gap between the college-educated and the non-college-educated isn’t big enough. Do these people know how silly they sound? One more thing. Why would anyone think that a college degree ensures or guarantees anything? All it is is a ticket to compete.

A Year Ago