Friday, 11 July 2008


Peggy Noonan is off today. Here is Peg Kaplan’s next-to-latest post.


Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Tour de France. Here is tomorrow’s stage.

J. J. C. Smart on Generalized Benevolence

In setting up a system of normative ethics I must of course appeal to some ultimate attitudes which I must suppose to be held in common by me and by those to whom I am addressing myself. The sentiment to which I will appeal will be generalized benevolence: the disposition to seek the happiness of mankind (or perhaps better, of all sentient beings) generally, not counting one’s own happiness more or less than that of any other man. This is a sentiment which arises from sympathy: I shall be assuming that my audience consists of benevolent and sympathetic men. Of course such an audience will have other propensities besides that of benevolence. For example, they may have a propensity to obey the rules of some traditional moral code irrespective of whether such an action is that which would be dictated solely by generalized benevolence. Nevertheless I may have some good hope of getting such an audience to agree with my system of normative ethics after I have made some philosophical clarifications. They may come to suspect that their non-utilitarian propensities depend on conceptual confusion. In making its ultimate appeal to such a natural and widespread human sentiment as that of generalized benevolence, act utilitarianism is in a very strong position. That it will not be accepted by everybody is of course no more an objection to it than to any other ethical, or even scientific, doctrine.

(J. J. C. Smart, An Outline of a System of Utilitarian Ethics [Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1961], 4)

Note from KBJ: Smart says that generalized benevolence is “a natural and widespread human sentiment.” I’ve never known anyone who has that sentiment. Have you? I’ve come across people who say they have that sentiment, or who believe they ought to have that sentiment, but that’s a different matter. Human beings, as Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) noted long ago, are predominantly egoistic. Our benevolence, such as it is, is specific, not general. It is focused on self, family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and compatriots. If I’m right about this, then Smart’s audience is small indeed!

Bush-Hatin’ Paul

Paul Krugman¹ not only wants socialized medicine (i.e., a government takeover of health care); he thinks it will come to pass if Barack Obama is elected.


¹“Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults” (Daniel Okrent, “13 Things I Meant to Write About but Never Did,” The New York Times, 22 May 2005).

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Dog Eat Your Taxes?” (Op-Ed, July 9):

It may be amusing for Ray D. Madoff to criticize Leona Helmsley’s charitable giving by saying her fortune “is going to the dogs,” but those of us who give to the Humane Society of the United States and other animal-rescue organizations feel otherwise.

After Hurricane Katrina, after the floods in the Midwest, after the fires in the West, the humane societies across the country rescued and cared for lost animals and then sought to reunite them with their owners.

This may seem one of the “whims of the wealthy” to Mr. Madoff, but it’s not to pet owners.

Maybe the work of the humane societies doesn’t equate to the Rockefeller Foundation’s Green Revolution, but it certainly doesn’t deserve mockery.

Joel R. Gardner
Cherry Hill, N.J., July 9, 2008

Note from KBJ: All of my donations go to animal-welfare organizations. Humans can take care of themselves; domesticated animals cannot.

A Year Ago



Alcohol is a mind-altering substance. What does it say about someone that he or she wants to alter his or her mind? I like my mind just the way it is, thank you.

The Grand Old Party, Part 2

Here are the least-favored elected Republicans, according to a survey of right-of-center bloggers.