“Philosophical Vices,” A Discussion Continued

This is a contribution to the exchange David Riesbeck, Stephen Boydstun, and I are having below about the excerpt David posted from Alasdair MacIntyre’s essay, “Philosophy Recalled to Its Tasks: A Thomistic Reading of Fides et Ratio,” in Alasdair MacIntyre, The Tasks of Philosophy, Selected Essays, Vol. 1. My response to David was too long for the combox (and too hard to edit there), so I’ve pasted it here. The block quotes are all from David. “You” refers to David. The post is probably not intelligible unless you’ve read the rest of the exchange.


I take the essential issue to be this: the claim of MacIntyre’s that we’re disputing is implicitly (but obviously) a criticism of liberalism as a culture, and implicitly (though less obviously) a comparative claim about liberalisms merits relative to some unspecified ideal. But every element of this procedure, and thus of the claim itself, is objectionably tendentious, polemical, and under-argued. He doesn’t specify the target of the criticism at all, much less specify it with the degree of precision that his criticism requires. He doesn’t specify in conceptual terms what it would mean for something to be a culture of questioning. He gives no examples in this essay of what he means by a culture of questioning, and contrary to what you’ve said in defense of him, he gives no relevant examples in anything of his that I’ve read of such a culture. (I haven’t read everything MacIntyre has ever written, but I’ve read at least a thousand pages of his work, so admittedly I’m generalizing across what I have read, not every last word he’s ever written or uttered.) Continue reading

Eternal Recurrence

When Alexander marched southwards from Tyre, he met with resistance at one place only, the old Philistine city of Gaza, the last great coast-town before the Egyptian frontier, a strong fortress on an eminence, which was bravely and skilfully defended by the eunuch Batis with the help of Nabatean mercenaries. Not until the heavy siege-engines had been fetched from Tyre and placed upon an artificial rampart and the walls had been undermined, did he succeed in taking the city after a two months’ siege. In the course of it he was wounded by a shot in the shoulder.  As a clean sweep had been made of the population partly by death and partly by enslavement, Alexander fetched in new settlers from the neighborhood, and converted the town into a Macedonian fortress.

–Ulrich Wilcken, Alexander the Great, p. 112

conscience-violating reasons: from the ethics of discourse to good reasoning

Here’s another interpretation of how (what Estlund characterizes as) the central thesis of political liberalism might go.

The reasons that favor permission to coerce A but that are not acceptable to A (due to their violating A’s conscience), unlike the other good reasons that favor it being permitted to coerce A, are not part of (they are irrelevant to) one being in a position to make a good case to A that would also be acceptable to A. The screening-off here would not be part of what determines the shape of the relevant good reasoning about the relevant permission to coerce itself, but it would determine the reasons or bits of reasoning (that are part of one’s good reasoning) that factor into meeting the condition that is crucial for the permission to exist (the condition of one at least being in a position to make an acceptable case to A, if not actually making it). Continue reading

Cherries, anyone?

From a New York Times article on a nasty “shouting match” between two New York state legislators (some of which took place on Twitter, making the “shouting” part a bit of an exaggeration):

Mr. Parker has a record of outbursts and sometimes outright violence. In 2005, he was arrested and charged with punching a traffic agent; the charges were eventually dismissed.

In 2009, he was indicted on a charge of assaulting and menacing a New York Post photographer outside the senator’s mother’s home. He was found guilty of two misdemeanor counts but acquitted of felony charges. A judge gave him three years’ probation and ordered him to attend an anger management class.

How do dismissed criminal charges furnish evidence, even in part, of a “record of…outright violence”? There may well be hard evidence of Parker’s punching the traffic agent despite the dismissal, but if so, this evidence is not mentioned, and whether or not it exists, the fact remains that it didn’t lead to criminal charges. Continue reading