Monday, 17 December 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a New York Times story about cosmology.


Here is a flowchart on the morality of war. Where are you?

Jonathan Wolff on Utilitarianism

Few philosophers are now prepared to accept utilitarian reasoning, for they think it has morally unacceptable consequences.

(Jonathan Wolff, An Introduction to Political Philosophy, rev. ed. [New York: Oxford University Press, 2006], 52)

Note from KBJ: Here is a partial list of philosophers who are utilitarians: Jeremy Bentham, William Godwin, Henry Sidgwick, R. M. Hare, J. J. C. Smart, Richard Brandt, Peter Singer, William Shaw, Shelly Kagan, Brad Hooker, John Stuart Mill, David Hume, William Paley, G. E. Moore, John Austin, David Brink, L. W. Sumner, James Mill, Francis Hutcheson, Herbert Spencer, R. G. Frey, Jonathan Glover, Timothy Sprigge, John Harsanyi, Hastings Rashdall, Joseph Fletcher, George Berkeley, Rolf Sartorius, D. W. Haslett, Philip Pettit, Peter Railton, Derek Parfit, Michael Bayles, Kai Nielsen, Jonathan Bennett, and James Rachels.

A Year Ago



How many of you like the college-football bowl games? There are 32 bowl games this year, culminating in the BCS championship game between LSU and Ohio State on Monday, 7 January. Many people, including most sportswriters, want to abolish bowl games and replace them with a playoff system, as in college basketball. No conservative could support such a radical proposal. Bowl games are traditional. They are Americana. Families organize their years around these games. Many use them as vacations to warm climates. Who could plan a vacation with a playoff system? You wouldn’t know who was playing, or where, until a week before. And what about the pageantry of the bowl games? The parades. The beauty queens. The balls. Must everything be rationalized and routinized? Who cares whether there is debate, after the bowl games are over, about which team is best? What’s wrong with debate?

Addendum: I will post a list of the 32 bowl winners (against the line) before Thursday’s first game. Stay tuned. If you make any money using my picks, I want a cut of it. A big cut of it. If you lose any money, don’t whine about it to me.


The Wall Street Journal continues to put business interests ahead of law and order. See here. I don’t understand why opposing illegal immigration will hurt the Republican Party. Are Mexican-Americans too stupid to grasp the distinction between legal and illegal? Are they Mexicans first and Americans second? Do they identify with illegal aliens? Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Mexican-Americans will indeed punish the Republican Party for opposing illegal immigration. Is that supposed to resolve the matter? Are Republicans supposed to put the welfare of their party ahead of the welfare of their country? It’s all very strange. By the way, notice the author’s manipulative rhetoric. He calls those who oppose illegal immigration “xenophobes” and “nativists.” I guess that makes him a xenophile and a globalist.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “High Stakes for Poker as a Learning Tool” (Education, Dec. 12):

If you want to introduce middle-school students to a worthwhile card game, teach them bridge. Bridge combines teamwork, technique, logic, probability, psychology, intuition and memory with the risk assessment and situational analysis ascribed to poker.

The gambling aspect is a nonissue at most levels. Many teaching aids are available online and in print.

Kenneth J. Berniker
El Cerrito, Calif., Dec. 12, 2007

Note from KBJ: Is he right, Peg?

Best of the Web Today



Bryan Garner writes the following under the word “if” in his Usage Tip of the Day (which comes to me via e-mail every weekday):

Part B: “If, and only if.” This adds nothing but unnecessary emphasis (and perhaps a rhetorical flourish) to “only if.” E.g.: “Such a ‘homocentrist’ position takes the human species to define the boundaries of the moral community: you are morally considerable if, and only if, [read ‘only if’] you are a member of the human species.” Colin McGinn, “Beyond Prejudice,” New Republic, 8 Apr. 1996, at 39. The variation “if, but only if,” which sometimes occurs in legal writing, is unnecessary and even nonsensical for “only if.”

Garner is mistaken. “A if B” says that B is a sufficient condition for A and that A is a necessary condition for B. “A only if B” says that A is a sufficient condition for B and that B is a necessary condition for A. “A if and only if B” says both of these things: that A is necessary and sufficient for B. Colin McGinn (a philosopher) is saying that, according to homocentrism (a.k.a. anthropocentrism), membership in the human species is both necessary and sufficient for being morally considerable. In other words, all and only humans have moral status. On Garner’s reading, homocentrism says exactly half of this: that only humans have moral status. The difference between “if and only if” and “only if” is substantive; it is not merely a matter of emphasis or rhetoric.

Conservative Blog Awards

John Hawkins of Right Wing News polled right-of-center bloggers. Here are the results.