Monday, 14 April 2008

Politics

I leave you this fine evening with a column by Rebecca Traister. Many of the young women quoted in the column say that male supporters of Barack Obama are sexist. The young women have, by their own admission, no evidence for this belief, and some of them even describe it as a “feeling.” Welcome to feminist ideology, folks. Men bad; women good.

Addendum: Here is one of the paragraphs:

Valenti continued, “I pinpoint sexism for a living. You’d think I’d be able to find an example. And I hate to rely on this hokey notion that there’s some woman’s way of knowing, and that I just fucking know. But I do. I just know.” When it comes to feminism, she continued, so much proof is required to convince someone that sexism exists, “even when it’s explicit and outrageous. So when it’s subdued or subtle, you don’t want to talk about it.”

I’m not making this up!

Addendum 2: Many of these young women will vote for Clinton because she’s a woman, but they are outraged that a man would vote against her because she’s a woman. Either sex is relevant or it’s not, and if it is, then it cuts both ways.

Twenty Years Ago

4-14-88 Thursday. I noted yesterday that Larry Speakes manufactured quotations for President [Ronald] Reagan a few years ago. The press, both print and electronic, is in an uproar, calling his actions irresponsible and railing out against falsehood and fabrication in general. “The truth is all important!”, they say. Nobody realizes that Speakes was making the president look good, or that the statements he manufactured and reported (about how the United States and the Soviet Union, though mortal enemies, must continue their dialogue) are of just the sort that Reagan would have made anyway. Instead, they assume that truth is an absolute value; that there are no circumstances under which what Speakes did is justifiable. Of course there are. In fact, if Speakes’s actions made it less likely that the American people think ill of the Soviets, then to that extent they are justified. Is it always wrong to misrepresent things? I think not. That’s why it’s so funny to watch these so-called guardians of truth rail on. If you believe them, the fate of the free world rests on their shoulders.

Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Barack Obama

Marx:

Religious suffering is the expression of real suffering and at the same time the protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people. (Karl Marx, “Toward the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law: Introduction,” in Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society, trans. and ed. Loyd D. Easton and Kurt H. Guddat [Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1967], 249-64, at 250 [italics in original] [essay written in 1843])

Kai Nielsen:

For Marx all pre-communist societies are class societies, driven by class struggles, where the class structures are epoch-specific and are rooted in the material conditions of production. Religions, in his conception, and also Engels’s conception of things, function principally to aid the dominant class or classes in mystifying and, through such mystification, controlling the dominated classes in the interests of the dominant class or classes. Members of the dominating classes may or may not be aware that religion functions that way. But, whether they are aware of it or not, it so functions. Religion, as ideology, serves to reconcile the dominated to their condition and to give them an illusory hope of a better purely spiritual world to come, after they depart this veil [sic] of tears[.] This works, in the interests of the dominant class or classes, as a device to pacify what otherwise might be a rebellious dominated class, while at the same time “legitimating” the wealth and other privileges of the dominating class or classes. In this peculiar way—definitely an ideological way—religion works to “unify” class society, while at the same time giving expression to distinctive class interests. It serves, that is, both to “unify” class society and to sanction class domination, while giving the dominated class an illusory hope, though, of course, not one seen by them to be illusory, of a better life to come after the grave. . . . (Kai Nielsen, “Naturalistic Explanations of Theistic Belief,” chap. 51 in A Companion to Philosophy of Religion, ed. Philip L. Quinn and Charles Taliaferro [Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1997], 402-9, at 406)

Obama:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or antitrade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations. (Barack Obama, Speech in San Francisco, 6 April 2008)

Interesting, no?

Haiku

As much as they spend
On pampered, high-priced athletes
The Tigers still suck

Baseball

Get well, Harlan.

Religion

Here is Richard Brookhiser’s review of a new book about the Founding Fathers.

Saving the Planet

Here is the antidote to Al Gore.

Music

If this isn’t the best album ever made, then this sentence is false.

Addendum: Here is the title track, which is one of my all-time favorites. Here is the album’s second song.

A Year Ago

Here.

From the Mailbag

I don’t know if you’ll want to post this, but I feel confident you’ll at least find it interesting. I am looking to go to work for an investment firm, and saw that Goldman Sachs tends to rank high on the “best companies to work for” lists. So I took a look at several of the career pages at Goldman Sachs, and many of those pages have this phrase: “10,000 Women”—wow, that makes me feel confident that I should apply at this firm.

If you were a dude, looking to go to work for this company, would you feel encouraged? Obviously they aren’t saying they won’t hire men, but still . . .

Chuck P.

Note from KBJ: Are they hiring women over more-qualified men? If not, then the ad campaign is disingenuous. If so, then they’re shortchanging their clients and stockholders. Either way, I’d steer clear of Goldman Sachs.

A. K. Stout (1900-1983) on Universalization

“But if everyone else did it, think what a mess there would be” seems on the face of it a utilitarian reason against doing something. Yet the philosopher with whose name we at once associate “universalisation” is Kant, whose Categorical Imperative is not intended to be an appeal to consequences of any kind (even though consequences creep into his examples). Utilitarians, however, from Hume onwards, have appealed to universalisation to defend their position against the “intuitionist” view represented in this century by Prichard and Ross. The special problem that interests me is whether the appeal to universalisation can consistently be made by a utilitarian, or whether, in some at least of its uses, it involves the acceptance of certain principles (e.g. “fairness”) without reference to their consequences.

The example of the duty to keep promises, which intuitionists treat as crucial in their controversy with utilitarians, will help to make the issue clear. Intuitionists maintain that the rule “promises ought to be kept” is known by direct inspection to be true (or, if you prefer it, “binding”) independently of any good or bad effects that its particular or general observance may have. Ross, as we have noted, escapes the paradoxical conclusion that all promises must be kept, even in the hardest cases, by resort to the doctrine of prima facie duties. In doing this he makes a concession to the element of utilitarianism present in unreflective “commonsense” (which, as a good Aristotelian, he always has in mind as a test of theory), without himself (he thinks) in any degree “going utilitarian”.

(A. K. Stout, “‘But Suppose Everyone Did the Same,'” The Australasian Journal of Philosophy 32 [May 1954]: 1-29, at 4-5 [footnote omitted])

Note from KBJ: The terminology of normative ethical theory has changed during the past century. Utilitarians are still known as utilitarians, but some theorists speak of “consequentialism” rather than “utilitarianism” in order to allow for other types of consequentialist theory besides utilitarianism. Intuitionism (with or without the epistemology) is now known as deontology, of which there are two types: moderate (e.g., Prichard and Ross) and absolutist (e.g., Kant). What interests me most about this passage by Stout is the idea that normative ethical theories are to be tested by common sense. There are two views about the purpose of theory. The first is that theory is a means to criticize and reform common sense. The second is that theory is a means to systematize and defend common sense. We may think of these views as progressive and conservative (respectively). The two distinctions cut across one another, producing four logically exclusive and exhaustive categories: (1) progressive consequentialists; (2) conservative consequentialists; (3) progressive deontologists; and (4) conservative deontologists. Kant, Prichard, Ross, and I are in category 4.

Best of the Web Today

Here.

Addendum: James Taranto writes:

When Feingold and Obama refer dismissively to cultural and moral issues, it is not because they do not take those issues seriously. It is because they would rather not take seriously the arguments on the other side. It is much less intellectually demanding, as well as flattering to oneself and those San Francisco Democrats, to caricature opposing positions as the products of poverty, ignorance and bitterness.

Apply this to Taranto’s treatment of those who oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants:

“Anti-immigrant sentiment” is partly about economics, inasmuch as it implicates labor markets and demand for government services, but our sense is that its emotional appeal rests mostly on anxiety about foreign cultures and languages.

Taranto is taking the intellectually undemanding course of caricaturing the opposing position as a product of emotion. It’s why he calls amnesty opponents “nativists.” The insulting rhetoric saves him the hard work of arguing. Here is his paragraph, with appropriate changes:

When Taranto refers dismissively to the issue of amnesty, it is not because he does not take that issue seriously. It is because he would rather not take seriously the arguments on the other side. It is much less intellectually demanding, as well as flattering to himself and the business types (including his bosses) who share his view, to caricature the opposing position as the product of anxiety, prejudice, and ignorance.

See what I mean?

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The World Food Crisis” (editorial, April 10):

What should also be highlighted is the devastating effect that rising world food prices will have on the most vulnerable infants and young children.

Beyond the age of exclusive breast-feeding, the quality of the food children receive is as important as the quantity. To maintain health and growth, children between 6 and 24 months old need energy furnished by grains and fats, as well as specific essential nutrients included in animal-source proteins like milk.

In “malnutrition hot spots” like the Sahel, East Africa and South Asia, where most of the world’s five million malnutrition-related deaths occur each year, poor families already struggle, and often fail, to provide their children with such varied diets.

As you point out, it is critical to strengthen the World Food Program’s ability to carry out general food distributions and other interventions as the global food crisis spreads. But increasing the quantity of food aid is not enough. Stemming and reversing the high rate of malnutrition-related deaths in the young should be a top priority.

“Ready to use” nutrient-rich and dense foods and other nutritional supplements geared to the specific needs of young children can have a significant effect. Enhancing existing food aid with these supplements may increase the global cost of food aid, but if the world truly seeks to contain this growing crisis, this cannot be seen as a luxury.

Nicolas de Torrente
Executive Director
Doctors Without Borders U.S.A.
New York, April 10, 2008

Note from KBJ: Would it be unseemly of me to suggest that those who cannot provide for children shouldn’t have any? Is there some God-given right to reproduce, no matter what?