Justice, Equality, and Democracy

This post will not be nearly so interesting as its title would suggest.

This review will also not be quite so interesting as its title suggests, but it will be more interesting than this post (I hope): in it I review Georgios Anagnostopoulos and Gerasimos Santas’ Democracy, Justice, and Equality in Ancient Greece: Historical and Philosophical Perspectives for Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. Enjoy.

(and yes, I can’t help but thinking that justice comes first)

permissibility and sorta-consent-y nonconsent doing the work

Suppose that a constructed system of deontic norms is still under construction:  there are various good candidate actions for being impermissible that we have not yet settled on as impermissible (perhaps this matter is in dispute and that there are such disputes is part of how we get impermissibility norms that are sensitive to relevant agents and their aims).  We might, and standard deontic logical systems do, stipulate that, in such cases, permissibility is the default. So such candidates for being impermissible would be permissible (until made impermissible). More generally, as a conceptual matter, permissibility is simply non-impermissibility.  What is being demarcated is something like the distinction between the social or personal normative standards that constitutes impermissibility and the sheer absence of such. And there are probably good reasons for conceptualizing things this way, having to do with how deontic rule-governed systems function and reliably achieve their aims.

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boogie-nights Ronnie and Portmore’s “teleological conception of practical reasons” (TCR)

I’m reading some bits of Doug Portmore’s book, Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality.  According to Portmore’s “teleological conception of practical reasons” (TCR) — Chapter Three — all practical reasons are a function of reasons to desire outcomes:  if X has reason to perform A this is because X has reason to desire the possible world (or set of possible worlds) in which X performs A. Moreover, because reasons to desire outcomes can be agent-relative but desirability or fitting-desire is a function of agent-neutral reasons, such a view is not a “desirability-based” or “value-based” theory of practical reasons (that then passes the normative buck to objective desire-fittingness, in particular agent-neutral reasons of fitting desire).

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Cashing the Check of Justice

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity in this Nation.

So we have come to cash this check. 

–Martin Luther King, Jr. , “I Have a Dream” (1963)

I just got home from nearly three weeks abroad. Waiting for me in the mail: final judgment in my favor on my Superior Court appeal against Bedminister Municipal Court. But the case is not over. Continue reading


[This is an Addendum to my paper on Descartes/Rand in the current issue of Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.]

Kant argued against Descartes’ view that the existence of one’s mind is more immediately and more certainly known than the existence of one’s body.[1] Kant cast out Descartes’ view that the mind is a thinking substance.[2] Because Kant rejected also Descartes’ ontological proof for the existence of God,[3] Descartes’ first philosophy collapses. Metaphysical arguments to rational necessity of the existence of God or immortality of the soul are all cases of reason flapping its wings in a vacuum, by the lights of Kant. The Critique of Pure Reason (KrV) contains Kant’s case for a more limited scope for effective theoretical reason: stay within the bounds of possible sensory experience.

Kant accepted, as had Descartes and Aquinas before him, some notion that ‘I think’ entails ‘I am’. Then again, with Rand’s mature philosophy, acknowledgment that ‘Existence exists’ entails existence of one who acknowledges. For Kant, contra Descartes, ‘I think’ does not mean I think with a mental substance,[4] radically distinct from body; and thinking of my body and of bodies outside me is as certain as the circumstance that I think and that I exist as a thinking thing.[5] Kant had a role for ‘I think’ basic to his transcendental idealism, and such is not the role it had in the first philosophy of Descartes. Let me call Kant’s the “company-role” of ‘I think’.

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the work of requirements (as against reasons)

It is popular, in some perhaps many circles of analytic philosophy, to analyze various normative and evaluative properties in terms of normative reasons.  There are, I think, two essential elements to this strategy. First, it seeks to explain the candidate normative or evaluative property (this thing being valuable or good for or valuable to one or that thing being what one ought to do) in terms of this putatively more basic normative valence of relevant actions or responses (reasons, an agent X having reason to A).  Second, this valence is pro tanto in that it does not, in itself, render a verdict on whether the action or response that it attaches to is to be done (in this way, it is partial, non-determinative, non-verdictive, non-ought-making).  Thus the explanatory work of reasons (X having reason to A) is done via reasons “weighing” (or having “weight”) for and against the action or response in question, one side ultimately having more “weight” (except when the two sides are equally-balanced).

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Character-Based Voting and the Ambiguities of “Policy” (Part 3 of 5)

Here’s the third part of my five-part series on character-based voting and the ambiguities of “policy.” (It was supposed to be a four-part series, but I ended up adding a fifth.)  Here’s part 1, and here’s part 2.

The point of the series is to probe ambiguities in the thesis that character-based voting is only permissible or legitimate in cases where character is a proxy for “policy” or “governance.” Part 1 introduced the issues by way of a recent example. Part 2 considered ambiguities in character’s being a proxy for policy in the sense of being instrumentally relevant to bringing about policies. Part 3 looks into the possibility that the expression of good or bad states of character could be constitutive of good governance itself. Continue reading

Character-Based Voting and the Ambiguities of “Policy” (Part 2 of 5)

Continued from part 1. In my last post, I suggested that Trump’s recent meeting with Nobel Laureate Nadia Murad focuses our thinking on character-based voting. I take it to be uncontroversial that Trump’s behavior at the meeting was an expression of bad character, but the question is, how relevant is something like that to voting (e.g., voting for Trump in 2020)? Continue reading

Character-Based Voting and the Ambiguities of “Policy” (Part 1 of 5)

After blogging somewhat obsessively about it for awhile, I’ve put the issue of character-based voting on the backburner to chase other things, but this column the other day by Roger Cohen caught my eye. It describes Donald Trump’s conduct at his July 17 meeting with Nobel Prize winner Nadia Murad at the White House. Murad won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign to end mass rape as a wartime tactic. Continue reading

Forthcoming on Policy of Truth

Michael sort of beat me to this with his recent post on moral address, but following a precedent set last year (and duly Facebooked), Michael and I recently attended and presented papers at the 36th Annual Conference of the North American Society for Social Philosophy, held this time at the University of San Francisco. There we hung out and were feted by fellow PoTster David Potts. Continue reading