Tuesday, 11 March 2008


Here is a scene from today’s stage of Paris-Nice.

Gregory S. Kavka (1947-1994) on Hobbes’s Reconciliation Project

This attempted reconciliation of prudence and morality is the main element in a wider project of Hobbes’s, which is designed to show the consistency of a whole series of seemingly conflicting demands on individual citizens. Morality and prudence are joined in the laws of nature. The first three of these laws recommend founding, and submitting to the authority of, the State. This State, in turn, is the authoritative interpreter of the individual’s religious duties, so that there is no significant conflict between religious and civil obedience. Thus, the demands of four spheres—morality, prudence, politics, and religion—are joined in the imperative: seek peace by obeying the laws of the commonwealth or, if in a state of nature, cooperating in creating a commonwealth and then obeying its laws. This argument, if successful, could motivate and justify political obedience on the part of individuals whose primary commitment is to any of those four spheres, thereby promoting civil peace between moralists, clerics, ordinary citizens, and officials of the State.

(Gregory S. Kavka, Hobbesian Moral and Political Theory [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986], 383-4 [footnote omitted])

Note from KBJ: One might say that, for Hobbes, obedience to the sovereign is overdetermined. Another thing that’s overdetermined (just to help you understand the concept) is vegetarianism. If you care about animals, you should be a vegetarian. If you care about your health, you should be a vegetarian. If you care about the environment, you should be a vegetarian. If you care about human beings, you should be a vegetarian. There are at least four independent reasons to be a vegetarian!

The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law

I’ve been reading about Eliot Spitzer. Should prostitution be a crime? If so, on what ground? If not, why not?

A Year Ago


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

In issuing his veto of the bill prohibiting extreme interrogation techniques (read: torture), President Bush said, “We have no higher responsibility than stopping terrorist attacks.” In fact, he does have one.

He took an oath on the Bible to protect and defend the Constitution. His presidency has been an unending demonstration of how little that pledge matters to him.

His legacy as the worst modern president is now secure. One can only hope that the voters will see through his deceit in November and elect a president who will actually adhere to the oath of office. This must be a central campaign issue for both parties.

Jason Warren
New Paltz, N.Y., March 9, 2008

Note from KBJ: I don’t see any mention of torture in the Constitution. What’s the letter writer talking about? What President Bush does have (qua commander in chief) is a duty to defend the American people. If that requires torture of enemy combatants or suspected terrorists, then so be it.

Criminal Justice

Thomas Sowell has some characteristically astute observations on crime.