Thursday, 10 April 2008

“The Holocaust Declaration”

I leave you this fine evening with a column by Charles Krauthammer.

A Year Ago


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

In “1984,” George Orwell immortalized the image of politicians using language to mislead or deceive. When President Bush decided to escalate our involvement in the Iraq war last year, he opened his Orwellian dictionary and labeled it a surge. The mainstream press fell right in step with him, and has ever after used that term to describe the troop increase.

Now we hear that Gen. David H. Petraeus wants troop reductions put on hold. This raises the question, When is a surge an escalation? The answer is, It was right from the start. I call on the media to refer to it as such from here on.

Burton J. Kushner
Madison, Wis., April 9, 2008

Note from KBJ: The letter writer wants to replace a euphemism (“surge”) with a dysphemism (“escalation”). Now that’s Orwellian!

Peter Geach on Doing Evil That Good May Come

I must first clear up an ambiguity in the phrase ‘doing evil that good may come’. We cannot ask whether e.g. Caesar’s death was a good or bad thing to happen; there are various titles under which it may be called good or bad. One might very well say e.g. that a violent death was a bad thing to happen to a living organism but a good thing to happen to a man who claimed divine worship, and this would again leave it open whether doing Caesar to death was a good or bad thing to do for Brutus and the rest. Now when I speak of ‘not doing evil that good may come’, what I mean is that certain sorts of act are such bad things to do that they must never be done to secure any good or avoid any evil. For A to kill a man or cut off his arm is not necessarily a bad thing to do, though it is necessarily bad that such a thing should happen to a living organism. Only by a fallacy of equivocation can people argue that if you accept the principle of not doing evil that good may come, then you must be against capital punishment and surgical operations.

Suppose that A and B are agreed that adultery is a bad sort of behaviour, but that A accepts the principle of not doing evil that good may come, whereas B rejects it. Then in A’s moral deliberations adultery is simply out: as Aristotle said, there can be no deliberating when and how and with whom to commit it (EN 1107a16). For B, on the other hand, the prima facie objection to adultery is defeasible, and in some circumstances he may decide: Here and now adultery is the best thing. Similarly, Sir David Ross holds that the objection to punishing the innocent, viz. that then we are not ‘respecting the rights of those who have respected the rights of others’, is only a prima facie objection; in the general interest it may have to be overruled, ‘that the whole nation perish not’—a Scripture quotation that we may hope Sir David made without remembering who was speciously justifying whose judicial murder.

(Peter Geach, “The Moral Law and the Law of God,” chap. 5 in Absolutism and Its Consequentialist Critics, ed. Joram Graf Haber [Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1994], 63-72, at 65-6 [italics in original] [essay first published in 1969])

Note from KBJ: Person A is an absolutist deontologist. Person B is a moderate deontologist. They agree that adultery is intrinsically wrong (that’s what makes them deontologists rather than consequentialists), but disagree about whether it is ever justified, with A saying no and B saying yes. You might say that both A and B endorse a rule against adultery. For B, the rule has exceptions. For A, it does not.

Baseball Notes

1. There are wicked people out and about. When I got to my office this morning, I found a stick-on note near the door. It read “GO RED SOX!” I guess it could have been worse. It could have read “GO YANKEES!”

2. This is what you get when you try to play baseball in the mountains.

3. I’m watching the first game of a doubleheader between my adopted Texas Rangers and the Baltimore Orioles. Kevin Millwood pitched seven innings for the Rangers before giving way to Joaquin Benoit. The announcers raved about how Millwood (who has 15 complete games in his 12-year career) “went extra innings.” Have expectations of starters fallen that low? Is anything beyond five innings now considered heroic? Bob Gibson (255 complete games in 17 years), Jim Palmer (211/19), and Jack Morris (175/18) must be cringing.

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