Monday, 30 July 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a column by Mark Bauerlein.

W. D. Ross (1877-1971) on Animal Rights

A general discussion of right or duty would hardly be com­plete without some discussion, even if only a brief one, of the closely related subject of rights. It is commonly said that rights and duties are correlative, and it is worth while to inquire whether and, if at all, in what sense this is true. The statement may stand for any one, or any combination, of the following logically independent statements:

(1) A right of A against B implies a duty of B to A.
(2) A duty of B to A implies a right of A against B.
(3) A right of A against B implies a duty of A to B.
(4) A duty of A to B implies a right of A against B.

What is asserted in (1) is that A‘s having a right to have a certain individual act done to him by B implies a duty for B to do that act to A; (2) asserts the converse implication; what is meant by (3) is that A‘s having a right to have a certain act done to him by B implies a duty for A to do another act to B, which act may be either a similar act (as where the right of having the truth told to one implies the duty of telling the truth) or a different sort of act (as where the right to obedience implies the duty of governing well); (4) asserts the converse implication.

Of these four propositions the first appears to be unquestion­ably true; a right in one being against another is a right to treat or be treated by that other in a certain way, and this plainly implies a duty for the other to behave in a certain way. But there is a certain consideration which throws doubt on the other three propositions. This arises from the fact that we have duties to animals and to infants. The latter case is complicated by the fact that infants, while they are not (so we commonly believe) actual moral agents, are potential moral agents, so that the duty of parents, for instance, to support them may be said to be counterbalanced by a duty which is not incumbent on the infants at the time but will be incumbent on them later, to obey and care for their parents. We had better therefore take the less complicated case of animals, which we commonly suppose not to be even potential moral agents.

It may of course be denied that we have duties to animals. The view held by some writers is that we have duties concerning animals but not to them, the theory being that we have a duty to behave humanely to our fellow men, and that we should behave humanely to animals simply for fear of creating a disposition in ourselves which will make us tend to be cruel to our fellow men. Professor D. G. Ritchie, for instance, implies that we have not a duty to animals except in a sense like that in which the owner of an historic house may be said to have a duty to the house. Now the latter sense is, I suppose, purely metaphorical. We may in a fanciful mood think of a noble house as if it were a conscious being having feelings which we are bound to respect. But we do not really think that it has them. I suppose that the duty of the owner of an historic house is essentially a duty to his contemporaries and to posterity; and he may also think it is a duty to his ancestors. On the other hand, if we think we ought to behave in a certain way to animals, it is out of consideration primarily for their feelings that we think we ought to behave so; we do not think of them merely as a practising-ground for virtue. It is because we think their pain a bad thing that we think we should not gratuitously cause it. And I suppose that to say we have a duty to so-and-so is the same thing as to say that we have a duty, grounded on facts relating to them, to behave in a certain way towards them.

Now if we have a duty to animals, and they have not a duty to us (which seems clear, since they are not moral agents), the first and last of our four propositions cannot both be true, since (4) implies that a duty of men to animals involves a right of men against animals, and (1) implies that this involves a duty of animals to men, and therefore (4) and (1) together imply that a duty of men to animals involves a duty of animals to men. And since the first proposition is clearly true, the fourth must be false; it cannot be true that a duty of A to B necessarily involves a right of A against B. Similarly, the second and third propositions cannot both be true; for (2) and (3) taken together imply that a duty of men to animals involves a duty of animals to men. But here it is not so clear which of the two propositions is true; for it is not clear whether we should say that though we have a duty to animals they have no right against us, or that though they have a right against us they have no duty to us. If we take the first view, we are implying that in order to have rights, just as much as in order to have duties, it is necessary to be a moral agent. If we take the second view, we are implying that while only moral agents have duties, the possession of a nature capable of feeling pleasure and pain is all that is needed in order to have rights. It is not at all clear which is the true view. On the whole, since we mean by a right something that can be justly claimed, we should probably say that animals have not rights, not because the claim to humane treatment would not be just if it were made, but because they cannot make it. But the doubt which we here find about the application of the term ‘rights’ is characteristic of the term. There are other ways too in which its application is doubtful. Even if we hold that it is our duty not merely to do what is just to others but to promote their welfare beyond what justice requires, it is not at all clear that we should say they have a right to beneficent treatment over and above what is just. We have a tendency to think that not every duty incumbent on one person involves a right in another.

(W. D. Ross, The Right and the Good [1930; repr., Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 1988], 48-50 [italics in original; footnote omitted])


Do you see the emerging pattern? Barack Obama is being treated with kid gloves by the mainstream media. Here is the latest example. Do you recall puff pieces like this about George W. Bush when he was seeking the Republican nomination for president in 1999? What you had were reporters digging up dirt on him, trying to discredit his candidacy. Why do you suppose the media are going easy on Obama? I think it’s more than ideological compatibility. I think it’s racism. Racism means deploying a double standard, one for one race and another for others. We’re used to thinking of racism as treating people worse than they deserve on account of their race, but it’s also racist to treat people better than they deserve on account of their race. We know that progressives think it’s impossible to criticize affirmative-action programs without being a racist. This keeps them from criticizing black people such as Obama. If they do, they’ll be accused by their fellow progressives of racism. Was it George W. Bush who coined the term “soft bigotry of low expectations”? That’s what’s happening right now with the mainstream media in their coverage of Obama. If they truly respected the man, they’d treat him the same way they treat white presidential candidates.


My Bose Wave Music System just arrived. See here. It took all of two minutes to open the box and get it playing. I chose Ronnie Montrose’s Territory (1986) to inaugurate it. The sound quality is excellent. The notes are clear and crisp; it’s plenty loud; and the bass is full. I’m glad I bought it.

Addendum: Pay no attention to the review of Territory. It’s laughable. The album is superb, and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with the production. It’s one of my favorite albums of all time—which is why I chose it as the first album to play on the Bose.

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Baseball Notes

1. It appears that Mark Teixeira (pronounced tuh-SHARE-uh) is headed to the Atlanta Braves. I’m not surprised that he prefers the Braves to, say, the New York Yankees. He played college baseball at Georgia Tech, so he probably has friends (and maybe family) in Atlanta, and the Braves are perennial contenders. I have no hard feelings toward Teixeira for leaving my adopted Texas Rangers. It’s the way of the world. You might say that he’s been traded, so it wasn’t up to him whether to leave, much less to leave for Atlanta. But he could have stayed. He could have told Rangers management that he wanted to stay and that he would settle for less money than he might earn elsewhere. Don’t laugh. Money isn’t everything. I could earn a lot more money by practicing law than I do by teaching philosophy. That I don’t change careers shows that I value other things besides money. As for preferring Atlanta to other teams, while Teixeira doesn’t control the team to which he’s traded, he can make it clear that he won’t be happy in certain places and announce that he will leave as soon as he becomes a free agent. To Braves fans, let me say this: You are getting a solid, reliable player with excellent sportsmanship. Until this year, Teixeira played every day. Like his teammate and friend Michael Young, he took pride in playing hurt or tired. He’s also a superb first baseman. He plays first base the way Brooks Robinson played third. As for Teixeira’s hitting prowess, look at the numbers he has put up. If he stays healthy, he could make the Hall of Fame. Good luck, Mark. It’s been a pleasure to watch you play every day for the past five years.

2. My friend Hawk is a disgrace to the great game of baseball. Just as politicians consult the polls to know what they believe, he consults the standings to know which team he likes. I’ve known Hawk for about five years. Until the other day, I had no idea he liked the Chicago Cubs. Note the coincidence: The Cubs start playing good baseball; Hawk climbs aboard the bandwagon. It makes me wonder about his moral character. To repeat: You don’t choose your team. You’re born with it. And you’re born with only one.

3. Memo to fans of the Milwaukee Brewers: It’s over. The Cubs have passed you (in the all-important loss column) and won’t look back. Your young players got off to fast starts, but that won’t continue. Francisco “Coco” Cordero is 0-4 with five blown saves, after having blown 11 in 2006. When he loses his confidence, he blows saves right and left. You will come to hate the sight of him.

4. Cal Ripken Jr and Tony Gwynn were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. Some people will hate me for saying this, but I never liked Cal Ripken Jr. I thought (and continue to think) that he was overrated (look at the 162-game average for his career) and that he put his consecutive-games playing streak above the welfare of his team. He knew his managers didn’t dare sit him, for fear of a fan backlash, and he exploited it. Miguel Tejada did the same thing until recently, when a broken wrist forced him to go on the disabled list. At first, Tejada thought he could wait out the injury by pinch-hitting once a game. In his first attempt, he tried to bunt with one arm. Even Tom Grieve, one of the television announcers for the Texas Rangers, said it was ridiculous, and Grieve rarely criticizes anyone. It’s admirable to want to play every game. It’s not admirable to hurt your team for the sake of a personal accomplishment.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Jean Edward Smith seems to have the same feeling about the courts that many modern citizens do—namely, that they are entitled to a court that holds their “manifestly ideological agenda,” and if it doesn’t, someone must “bring the court to heel” and “set it straight.”

The court’s purpose, however, is not to hold any particular political agenda, but rather to interpret the Constitution and our laws—as written and originally intended by those who wrote them.

If you do not like the original intent of the Constitution or our laws, you are free to elect officials and try to change them, but it is not the role of the judiciary to, in effect, make these changes for you.

Changing the number of justices would clearly be an attempt by the executive and legislative branches to undermine the judiciary in order to achieve political gains they could not earn in the court of public opinion.

Nick Tucker
Atlanta, July 26, 2007

Note from KBJ: Amen. The distinction between law and politics used to be obvious. It has been muddled in the past few decades by progressive law professors, who say that law is just politics in disguise. Indeed, to many progressives, everything is just politics in disguise. Marriage is politics; sex is politics; economics is politics; religion is politics; even housework (for God’s sake) is politics. How many book or essay titles have you seen of the form, “The Politics of X”? I hate to break it to progressives, but not everything is “just politics,” even if everything has a political dimension. Law is an autonomous institution, with standards, concepts, processes, and methods of its own. It is not reducible to, even if it can be studied in terms of, politics. As for why progressives wish to reduce everything to politics, the answer is simple. They’re result-oriented. Their aim is to engineer society so that it accords with their progressive vision. Processes mean nothing to them. Actually, it’s worse than that. To progressives, processes, including those that constitute the rule of law, are impediments to change. Anything that impedes “progress” must be destroyed.


Mark Spahn sent a link to this essay by English professor Mark Bauerlein.

Addendum: My thoughts about tenure haven’t changed over the years, but my ability to articulate them has. Let me be succinct. First, I have tenure. It can’t be taken away from me even if the tenure system is abolished. It’s a bargained-for exchange. I paid for my job security. Second, what is true of me is true of others. Anyone with tenure will retain it until he or she dies or retires. Abolishing tenure would be purely prospective. Third, I’m agnostic about whether, on the whole, tenure is a good thing. There are good things about it and bad things about it. Whether the good outweighs the bad, i.e., whether tenure is, on the whole, a good thing, depends on one’s values. For some, the good will outweigh the bad; for others, the bad will outweigh the good. In short, I don’t really care whether tenure is abolished. I just hope that those who make the decision understand all of the consequences of abolishing it: for students, for faculty, and for society at large.

A Year Ago