Saturday, 3 May 2008

A Year Ago


Capital Punishment

Now that the United States Supreme Court has resolved the issue of the constitutionality of lethal injection as a means of putting convicted murderers to death, many states are about to give murderers their due. See here for a New York Times story. Thank goodness I live in Texas, whose citizens value innocent human life enough to exterminate those who take it.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Sect Children Face New World in Texas’ Care, but Still No TV” (front page, April 26):

Religious persecution has laced throughout American history from its beginnings—Salem, Quakers, Anglicans, Baptists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Catholics and so on, depending on the era and majority social sentiment.

Is the forced breakup of the mothers and children of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Eldorado, Tex., another example, albeit in an ostensibly more benign form? The answer is yes, regrettably.

There is no other way to explain why officials invaded the F.L.D.S. ranch on a patently sham warrant, or why they took all the children (nearly 500) into custody, and then proceeded, through a bizarre court hearing, to take them away from their mothers and separate them throughout Texas under the direction of Child Protective Services, an agency characterized by ineptness and often doing more harm than good.

Any wrongdoing or child abuse must indeed be punished, but due process and in this case, religious freedom, require that the perpetrator be punished, not mass separation of mothers and children.

James C. Harrington
Director, Texas Civil Rights Project
Austin, Tex., April 26, 2008

John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, Paragraph 43

After this I read, from time to time, the most important of the other works of Bentham which had then seen the light, either as written by himself or as edited by Dumont. This was my private reading: while, under my father’s direction, my studies were carried into the higher branches of analytic psychology. I now read Locke’s Essay, and wrote out an account of it, consisting of a complete abstract of every chapter, with such remarks as occurred to me: which was read by, or (I think) to, my father, and discussed throughout. I performed the same process with Helvetius de l’Esprit, which I read of my own choice. This preparation of abstracts, subject to my father’s censorship, was of great service to me, by compelling precision in conceiving and expressing psychological doctrines, whether accepted as truths or only regarded as the opinion of others. After Helvetius, my father made me study what he deemed the really master-production in the philosophy of mind, Hartley’s Observations on Man. This book, though it did not, like the Traité de Législation, give a new colour to my existence, made a very similar impression on me in regard to its immediate subject. Hartley’s explanation, incomplete as in many points it is, of the more complex mental phenomena by the law of association, commended itself to me at once as a real analysis, and made me feel by contrast the insufficiency of the merely verbal generalizations of Condillac, and even of the instructive gropings and feelings about for psychological explanations, of Locke. It was at this very time that my father commenced writing his Analysis of the Mind, which carried Hartley’s mode of explaining the mental phenomena to so much greater length and depth. He could only command the concentration of thought necessary for this work, during the complete leisure of his holiday of a month or six weeks annually: and he commenced it in the summer of 1822, in the first holiday he passed at Dorking; in which neighbourhood, from that time to the end of his life, with the exception of two years, he lived, as far as his official duties permitted, for six months of every year. He worked at the Analysis during several successive vacations, up to the year 1829 when it was published, and allowed me to read the manuscript, portion by portion, as it advanced. The other principal English writers on mental philosophy I read as I felt inclined, particularly Berkeley, Hume’s Essays, Reid, Dugald Stewart and Brown on Cause and Effect. Brown’s Lectures I did not read until two or three years later, nor at that time had my father himself read them.

Note from KBJ: Don’t you love how Mill compartmentalized his reading? Some of it was “private,” which implies that the rest of it was “public.” I think he means discretionary and obligatory. I, too, compartmentalize my reading in this way, except that the obligatoriness is self-imposed rather than imposed by someone else. Each day, without fail, I read two pages of the 10-volume Encyclopedia of Philosophy, four pages of the new edition of Irving M. Copi and Carl Cohen’s Introduction to Logic (which I’ll be using in my fall Logic course), and four pages of Michael J. Sandel’s anthology Justice: A Reader (which I’ll be using in my fall Social and Political Philosophy course). Once these obligatory readings are done for the day, which takes about 45 minutes, I move on to discretionary material, which obviously varies, depending on what I’m working on or interested in. On days when I’m not teaching, I read all morning, pause to run, shower, eat, and nap, and spend the afternoon and evening at the computer. It’s a great life. I can’t believe they pay me for it.