Derek Bowman on “The Circumstances of Justice”

I got into Palestine a couple of days ago, but have been wiped out by a combination of jet lag and Ramadan fasting. Since I lack bona fide theological commitments, the fasting (no food or drink from dawn to dusk) was intended as a kind of “spiritual experiment,” but is now starting to feel like the kind of experiment that Victor Frankenstein would conduct, at least if Dr. Frankenstein had no one to experiment on but himself. 

The idea of “experiments in living” seemed so cool when put this way in Mill’s On Liberty:

As it is useful that while mankind are imperfect there should be different experiments in living; that free scope should be given to varieties of character, short of injury to others; and that the worth of different modes of life should be proved practically, when any one thinks fit to try them. It is desirable, in short, that in things which do not primarily concern others, individuality should assert itself.

It doesn’t seem cool now. In fact, there’s a fine line between an experiment in living and one in feeling like death warmed over–as in: very warmed over, indeed, plying the borderline of “hot and dehydrated.”* I’m now irked by Mill’s glib omissions in the preceding passage. Free scope should be given to varieties of character “short of injury to others,” he says. Oh, others. What about injury to self? Isn’t the self just someone’s other? It seems a major oversight. Wish I had noticed it earlier. But for now, I’m going to lie in the bed that I’ve made, chiefly because I lack the energy to do much else.

Anyway, as I mentioned in an earlier post, Derek Bowman (Philosophy, Providence College) will be starting up a new series here soon, blogging his paper “The Circumstances of Justice” (click the preceding link for details). I’ll be a little slow off the mark in commenting or blogging as I recover, but please welcome Derek, theorize, and carry on.

*More on the infernal/high temperature theme.

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