Friday, 6 July 2007

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

William Kristol wants Americans to cheer up. How can they, with presidential candidates telling them that things are bad and getting worse? If we turned off the television, we’d all feel better.


Philosophers are all over the map in every field, from aesthetics to philosophy of law to ethics to metaphysics to epistemology to philosophy of mind. In political philosophy, there are conservatives, liberals, socialists, Marxists, libertarians, and anarchists. Crispin Sartwell is an anarchist. Here is his latest column. Here is his blog.


Here is a New York Times story about Glacier National Park, which I visited in 1989.

Dreaming the Impossible Dream

I suppose I should admire the optimism displayed by fans of the New York Yankees, but groundless optimism is a vice, not a virtue, and there are no grounds for thinking that the Yankees will make up 12 games on the Boston Red Sox in half a season. I have no doubt that the Yankees will play better during the second half than they did during the first half. But that’s not enough. They must play much better, indeed spectacularly better. And even that’s not enough, for Boston must falter. Badly. These are independent events (except when the two teams play each other). The likelihood that two highly unlikely events will occur may not be zero (Tom‘s statistics prove that), but it’s negligible. I wonder when Yankees fans will throw in the towel. If you’re a Yankees fan, tell me.


Here is the start list for this year’s Tour de France, which begins tomorrow morning in London (yes, London). The three-week race concludes in Paris on 29 July. In my opinion, having followed (and participated in) various sports for 40 years, the Tour is the most difficult sporting event in the world. It’s not surprising that professional cyclists take performance-enhancing drugs. This doesn’t mean it’s right; it means it’s understandable. The Tour takes place on public roadways, in all weather. The riders will suffer in the cold; they will be soaking wet many times; they will fry in the bright sunshine for hours on end. They will race at high speeds on flat ground and struggle up mountains. No matter how hard it is on a given day, no matter how tired they get, no matter how many times they crash, they must, if they are to reach Paris, get up the next day and do it again. Americans have won 11 of the past 21 Tours, and it could very well be 12 of 22 after this year. Levi Leipheimer is ready to contend for the yellow jersey. Here is my projected order of finish:

1. Alejandro Valverde (Spain)
2. Levi Leipheimer (USA)
3. Alexander Vinokourov (Kazakhstan)
4. Cadel Evans (Australia)
5. Stefan Schumacher (Germany)

I will post daily updates. Y’all come back now, y’hear?


The wind must have been blowing out in Comiskey Park today, because the Minnesota Twins defeated the Chicago White Sox, 20-14. The teams had 39 hits combined. Each team scored in seven of the nine innings. Chicago made five errors. The Yankees suck.


Here is Peggy Noonan’s latest column. Here is Peg Kaplan’s latest post. (Peg is becoming quite the celebrity!)


William Saletan reviews Michael J. Sandel‘s new book on genetic engineering. I haven’t read the book (yet), but I’m familiar with Sandel’s work. Saletan can’t possibly be doing it justice. He seems more interested in clever putdowns than in serious engagement with Sandel’s arguments. That is symptomatic of the age.

Best of the Web Today



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

W. D. Ross (1877-1971) on Two Types of Duty

It is necessary to say something by way of clearing up the relation between prima facie duties and the actual or absolute duty to do one particular act in particular circumstances. If, as almost all moralists except Kant are agreed, and as most plain men think, it is sometimes right to tell a lie or to break a promise, it must be maintained that there is a difference between prima facie duty and actual or absolute duty. When we think ourselves justified in breaking, and indeed morally obliged to break, a promise in order to relieve some one’s distress, we do not for a moment cease to recognize a prima facie duty to keep our promise, and this leads us to feel, not indeed shame or repentance, but certainly compunction, for behaving as we do; we recognize, further, that it is our duty to make up somehow to the promisee for the breaking of the promise. We have to distinguish from the characteristic of being our duty that of tending to be our duty. Any act that we do contains various elements in virtue of which it falls under various categories. In virtue of being the breaking of a promise, for instance, it tends to be wrong; in virtue of being an instance of relieving distress it tends to be right. Tendency to be one’s duty may be called a parti-resultant attribute, i.e. one which belongs to an act in virtue of some one component in its nature. Being one’s duty is a toti-resultant attribute, one which belongs to an act in virtue of its whole nature and of nothing less than this.

(W. D. Ross, The Right and the Good [1930; repr., Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 1988], 28 [italics in original; footnote omitted])


6 July 2007, 1:43 P.M. Hawk: It’s time you learned the truth about me. In 1977, I came to the Majors with Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. I was 20 years old. I played third base. They called us the Hall of Fame Triplets, because it was a moral certainty that all three of us would make it to Cooperstown. “Jackson, Trammell, and Whitaker,” everyone used to say. It had the cadence of “Tinker to Evers to Chance.” We had played together at every level and were the best of friends. The Tigers believed they had three-quarters of their infield tied down for the next two decades. But during that first year, having been thinking about it for some time, I decided I wanted to go to law school and eventually become a philosophy professor, teaching students the fine points of reasoning, analysis, and criticism. The Tigers begged me to stay, but I had made up my mind. I’ll never forget a meeting I had with Alan and Lou. They sobbed like babies. They told me we were meant to play together and that it would never be the same without me at the hot corner. When they realized I was serious about leaving Major League Baseball, they got mad. They vowed never to mention me. Needless to say, Tiger management was furious. The team decided to erase all mention of me from its records. At first, this bothered me, but I came to realize that it was best for all involved. I’ll always have my memories of that glorious 1977 season. kbj P.S.: The other day, I saw Alan on television. He’s a coach for the Chicago Cubs. Thinking he might want to hear from an old friend and teammate, I called him. He must still be bitter, because he denied knowing me.


Will Nehs sent a link to this column by Victor Davis Hanson.

Health Care

Here is a New York Times story about the health-care plans of the presidential candidates. My plan is simple: You take care of your health; I take care of mine. If you can’t afford health care for your children, don’t have children. If people are made to bear the costs of their decisions, they will make better decisions. If you take money from some people and give it to others, you destroy the incentive to make good decisions.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Bill Clinton was snared in a perjury trap trying to deflect an embarrassing personal question that should have never been asked by investigators. But I. Lewis Libby Jr. lied to investigators in response to questions that were the very subject of their investigation. He did so to protect his bosses. The scripts are just not that similar.

Charles Rothberg
Centerport, N.Y., July 5, 2007

Note from KBJ: No two things are alike in every respect. If they were, they would be one thing, not two. The flip side of this is that any two things are alike in at least one respect, namely, being things. When reasoning by analogy, one must cite relevant similarities, not just similarities. When criticizing an analogical argument, one must cite relevant dissimilarities, not just dissimilarities. The letter writer cites an irrelevant dissimilarity in his comparison of Bill Clinton to Scooter Libby. The relevant similarity is that both lied under oath. Nothing else matters, as far as perjury is concerned. Perjury is a separate crime. It does not presuppose the commission of any other crime. Nor does the fact that there are good moral reasons for lying constitute a defense to perjury. A given act can be both morally justified and legally impermissible. Indeed, this is the basis of nonviolent civil disobedience. Martin Luther King Jr believed that his acts were morally justified, but he was the first to admit that they were legally impermissible. That is why he insisted on taking his punishment. If Bill Clinton had any character, he would have said the following: “I committed perjury, and for that I deserve punishment; but morally speaking, I did the right thing by lying, since the question I answered (falsely) should not have been asked.”