Wednesday, 12 March 2008


Here is an essay about “the barren Left.”


Melee! (Why are the New York Yankees such thugs?)

Religion and Science

The 2008 Templeton Prize goes to Michael Heller.

From the Mailbag


Your blog posts about philosophy interest me. I feel, though, that there is some fundamental knowledge about this field that I am missing. My sense is that there are some basics I just do not know that are preventing me from fully appreciating some of what you write and the writings of others that you refer to on your blog. It is as if I am on a journey, with a clear destination in mind, and I have a compass, but lack the knowledge of how it is used. Can you suggest some reading that would get me started in the right direction?


Note from KBJ: Give me a few days to compile a list of books, Steve.


Here is Thomas Sowell’s latest column.


There are four grounds on which to prohibit prostitution. The first is that one of the parties to the transaction is harming the other. The second is that one of the parties is seriously offending the other. The third is that one of the parties is harming himself or herself. (This is known as legal paternalism.) The fourth is that the behavior is inherently immoral. (This is known as legal moralism.) To a classical liberal such as John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), only the first of these grounds is legitimate. (It’s arguable that Mill thought the second ground to be legitimate as well.) Read this New York Times op-ed column. On which grounds are the authors urging the prohibition of prostitution? Are the authors legal paternalists? Are they legal moralists? Perhaps they view themselves as classical liberals; but if so, they have an expansive conception of harm!

Addendum: Here are Mill’s famous words (from On Liberty [1859], chap. 1):

The object of this essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to someone else. The only part of the conduct of anyone for which he is amenable to society is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

Isn’t it ironic that feminists treat grown women as though they were children? If a man were to do such a thing, he would be savaged.


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


If this isn’t the best album ever made, then there is no justice in this world.

A Year Ago


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

I believe that the comments by Prof. Alan M. Dershowitz of Harvard Law School about prostitution were irresponsible and insensitive.

As a second-year student at Harvard Law School, I have been taught by my professors that making hyperbolic, unlikely and unsupported statements, such as Mr. Dershowitz’s assertion that “prostitutes aren’t victims—they’re getting paid a thousand dollars an hour” is irresponsible generally and particularly so when speaking with the press.

Through my Harvard Law seminar on women’s human rights, I have read empirical studies that document that murder, sexual assault and post-traumatic stress disorder rates among prostitutes are much higher than among the general female population, belying the accuracy of Mr. Dershowitz’s avowal that prostitutes are not victims.

Finally, Mr. Dershowitz’s admonishment that resources devoted to ending prostitution should be apportioned to fighting terrorism is insensitive because it ignores the continued economic, racial and sexual exploitation of women and children the world over and seeks to distract us by generating fear.

As such, Mr. Dershowitz’s statements are a disservice to gender equality and the fight to end violence against women and children.

Jessica Corsi
Cambridge, Mass., March 11, 2008

Note from KBJ: The letter writer mentioned murder and sexual assault. These are already crimes and should be prosecuted as such. Those who argue that prostitution should be decriminalized are talking about commercial sex between consenting adults, in private. They are not talking about forced sex, coerced sex, public sex, or murder. The letter writer needs to take another course besides the one on “women’s human rights”—namely, logic.

Israel Scheffler on Justification

Justification is never a question of an isolated act just as it is never a question of an isolated sentence-acceptance, nor is it a non-rational stimulation, as the extreme emotivists would have it. It is the systematic rechanneling of initial commitments in such a way that each act is judged in terms of all others. We do not start from scratch, but always with initial commitments of some degree; but neither do we rest content with the latter. We modify and transform them into derived commitments of various sorts by systematic pressure which is channeled through principles of congruence. These derived commitments to acts, action-patterns, and rules are always changing, yet always subject to control. Whoever looks at ethics through law, or whoever recognizes the complex interplay of initial attraction, derived commitment, and the drive for personal consistency in individual moral choice, will acknowledge the rational and systematic structuring of justification.

(Israel Scheffler, “On Justification and Commitment,” The Journal of Philosophy 51 [18 March 1954]: 180-90, at 188)

Hall of Fame?

Jesse Orosco. (For an explanation of this feature, see here.)


As you may have noticed, my blogging has been lighter than usual for the past few days. My high-school friend Paul came down from Michigan to visit. We hadn’t seen each other in more than 14 years, although we’ve talked on the telephone many times. It was great to see him again. Paul attended my Ethics course yesterday and appeared to enjoy it. The topic was ethical egoism. We watched four movies while he was here: (1) 3:10 to Yuma (2007); (2) To Live and Die in L.A. (1985); (3) Planet of the Apes (2001); and (4) Little Big Man (1970). These are movies that I purchased on DVD but had never watched. (I’ve seen items 2 and 4 before, just not on DVD.) Paul couldn’t believe our warm weather. His bald head got burned yesterday while he played golf. That’ll teach him to lose his hair.